In the early going, the Montreal Canadiens have made a habit of falling behind in games and clawing their way back to earn victories either late or in the shootout. While they rolled in to Vancouver with an impressive 8-2-0 record, their underlying numbers showed some warning signs that they couldn’t keep up this pace, and they were bound to drop a few games eventually.
Well, road-weary but still tenacious, the Habs managed to fall behind but claw their way back into the game once more, before the hometown Canucks finally fended them off with some beautiful Sedinery in overtime.
Read past the jump for a full recap of a hard-fought (and controversial!) 3-2 overtime win.
In a nice gesture to begin the game, Habs coach Michel Therrien put former Vancouver Canucks Mike Weaver, Dale Weise, and Manny Malhotra in Montreal’s starting lineup along with local boy and VANCOUVER GIANTS LEGEND Brendan Gallagher. It was a thoughtful move on behalf of the visiting coach, and it almost paid dividends as the Habs jumped out of the gate. Fortunately, it didn’t amount to anything though, as Vancouver quickly took control of the even strength game.
The first period was highlighted by a couple of missed scoring chances from guys you wouldn’t expect to score. First, Derek Dorsett blew past Jared Tinordi and Mike Weaver for a partial breakaway, but couldn’t manage to get a shot on Carey Price. Soon after, Dale Weise flew past the Canucks defense, but his stick was slashed in two by Kevin Bieksa. There was originally no penalty on the play, but Weise tossed the evidence in the direction of the referee, which was enough to deservedly indict Bieksa.
Nick Bonino had a glorious chance to score in the dying moments of the first period as well, but he wasn’t able to lift the puck over Carey Price, who robbed him with his head while sprawling cross crease. Vancouver had another fantastic chance to open the scoring in the second period when Zack Kassian caused a turnover which led to a wide open Shawn Matthias one-time chance that rang off the iron.
After carrying the play for much of the first half of the game, another Habs turnover led to a Nick Bonino and Derek Dorsett 2-on-1, and they executed it perfectly:
But wait, how the heck did that breakdown happen? Let’s zoom and enhance.
Yes, that is indeed Alex Burrows taking a late run at Habs defenseman Alexei Emelin and hitting him in the head. Emelin would return to action to start the third period, but let’s be straight up with ourselves here: it was a dirty hit. It was late, it was to Emelin’s head, and while it didn’t appear to cause anything more than a stinger, it’s interference at the very least, and a probable rule 48 violation. Although there was no penalty on the play, there absolutely should have been and Burrows does deserve to be suspended. Send out the Sixtito Signal, since they’re going to need a replacement.
Anyways, Burrows would have a glorious chance to give Vancouver a 2-0 lead in the early 3rd period, but he managed to slide a puck right past a wide open net and off the inside of the far post. Just a few seconds after though, Brad Richardson did his best Alex Ovechkin impression by cutting down his off wing and firing a high wrister through the defenseman’s legs to beat Carey Price:
This will be the first and last time that Brad Richardson is ever compared to Alex Ovechkin.
But the Habs are nothing if not persistent while trailing, as they would fight back to tie the game in the latter half of the third period, as they have done so many times this young season. First, Alex Galchenyuk tipped a P.K. Subban point shot past Ryan Miller, who looked to be wearing VANCOUVER GIANTS LEGEND Brendan Gallagher as some kind of overcoat. Upon review, however, it was determined that it was Kevin Bieksa’s fault that Gallagher was on top of Miller in the first place, and that Gallagher didn’t wind up on Miller until after the puck had sailed by. This looked like the right call upon video review, and Miller agreed with it after the game too.
Shawn Matthias had another fantastic chance to restore Vancouver’s two goal lead off of a quick Kassian centering pass, but he was robbed by the pad of Carey Price. This would almost prove costly too, as the Habs managed to tie the game at 2-2 shortly after. Radim Vrbata couldn’t clear the puck out of the Canucks end, and in the resulting chaos, Dale Weise found himself with the puck on his stick. Channeling his inner Derek Dorsett, he made a great pass in a 2-on-1 situation to a much better goal scorer (Max Pacioretty in this case), who tapped the puck into a nearly open cage, tying the game at 2-2 and sending it to overtime.
The result wasn’t in doubt for long though, as Tom Gilbert threw a pick in the offensive zone and was whistled for interference. And on the resulting powerplay, Sedinery happened:
Canucks win in OT, 3-2 final.
Courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com
Between the posts, scoring chances, and the run of 5-on-5 play, the Canucks were pretty clearly the better team tonight. They wound up carrying a 57.3% Corsi on the evening, and outshot the road weary Habs 26-20 at even strength.
Alex Burrows led all skaters in this game with a 76% Corsi and 82% Fenwick, as his play made a major impact on the ice. His tenacious approach proved a headache for the Habs all night long, and his second line shouldered a heavy burden for Vancouver. Fortunately for Canucks fans, Burrows’ line interfered with any plans the Habs had of winning in a big way.
Okay, I’ll stop now.
Yannick Weber also had one of his best games as a Canuck, firing eight shots towards Carey Price and seeing 66.7% of the Corsis go his way at 5-on-5. He did see some fairly cushy deployment as he started 3/4th of his shifts in the offensive zone mostly against Montreal’s 3rd line, but he still looked as if he was determined to score on the other Price sibling. (He is a former Hab too, but that’s a much more common plotline.)
The Matthias-Richardson-Kassian line had another strong night, as that trio continues to generate offensive zone time and look good playing a down-low bump-and-grind board game with some solid puck movement courtesy of Kassian as an added bonus. I’m skeptical that they can continue to play this well (just as I’m skeptical that Luca Sbisa can continue to be a positive possession player and Hamhuis and Bieksa can continue to be awful), but I’ll take three mediocre games if they can follow it up with three good ones on a regular basis.
Canucks win. Vancouver now has the fifth best record in the NHL. Which is unexpected.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) October 31, 2014
Not gonna lie, I did not see that coming. Vancouver is actually tied for the 4th most points with Nashville, Los Angeles, and San Jose, while trailing Tampa Bay, Montreal, and Anaheim. You’ll notice that three of those teams happen to play in the Pacific, so even though the Canucks are playing .700 hockey, they’re just keeping pace with their closest rivals.
Realistically though, Vancouver is a good team, but likely not the 5th best team in the NHL. They may exceed our preseason expectations if Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa and Brad Richardson and Shawn Matthias have all taken steps forward beyond the players they have been so far in their NHL careers, but it’s way, way too early to make that call.
The Canucks have a couple of deceptively tough opponents coming up in the improving young Oilers and red hot Nashville Predators before venturing into the murderers row of California for the first time next week. It’s a tough stretch – this is the NHL, they’re all tough stretches – and Vancouver’s depth (minus Alex Burrows, presumably) is going to have to keep playing well if they want to keep pace in the Pacific.
Until then, have a happy Halloween!