Montreal-Edmonton: Dustin Penner's OT Winner Caps Comeback
With the Oilers and Canadiens each having won their previous game, one of them was going to walk away from last night's tilt with a mini winning streak. Unfortunately for the Montreal Canadiens, they take the "L"—but still earn one point for the overtime loss—and continue to have difficulty stringing together consecutive wins.
The Habs were the more aggressive team in the first period but, as has become almost customary, they got themselves into penalty trouble taking two before the 10 minute mark and giving the Oilers five PPs on the night.
The penalties kept killing the Habs' momentum, but when the teams were at even strength it was like a shooting gallery. The Habs top two lines took advantage of an overly aggressive, young Oilers squad to create a ton of first period scoring chances. While there is no question the Oilers have talent, they lack experience and tend to force plays, getting out of position as a result. As such, the Habs did a good job of exposing a weak Oilers back end through the first 30 minutes.
Two first period power play goals sent the teams to the dressing rooms locked at one, and the Habs continued to dominate in the second, scoring two quick goals to take a 3-1 lead. It was at that point that Oilers' coach, Tom Renney, wisely called a timeout to calm and rally his troops. And it worked.
After the timeout, the Oilers seemed to be rejuvenated, tilting the ice towards the Habs zone for the rest of the game as a result. The Canadiens suddenly looked slow and tired, producing a ton of turnovers, bad passes and poor defensive coverage as the speedy Oilers blitzed the offensive zone.
Down by one goal in the third, the Oilers tied it up on a shorthanded 2-on-1 break that was setup by an ill-advised dive by P.K. Subban. Subban, trying to recover for a Michael Cammalleri turnover, threw his body at the puck in a desperation move that was completely unnecessary. With a one goal lead and less than eight minutes to play, there was no reason for him to try such a low percentage play.
The Habs had another costly turnover in overtime that gave Dustin Penner a clear break and the winning goal.
While the Canadiens completely disappeared after their second goal in a collapse every bit as bad as the one they suffered against the Flyers, you have to give credit to the young Oilers squad.
Ultimately, Tom Renney's decision to call a timeout was a brilliant move because it got his players focused on the game and playing the way they needed in order to win.
Final score: Oilers 4 - Habs 3 (OT)
Habs' scorers: Scott Gomez (3), Mathieu Darche (4), Roman Hamrlik (2)
Oilers' scorers: Kurtis Foster (3), Ales Hemsky (7), Sam Gagner (7), Dustin Penner (8)
Three stars: 1. Dustin Penner, 2. Mathieu Darche, 3. Roman Hamrlik
-Jaroslav Spacek was playing in his 800th career game in 11 years in the NHL.
-Carey Price was awarded the Molson Cup as the Canadiens player with the highest three star ranking, for the month of November.
-With a goal and an assist, Roman Hamrlik hit the 600 point mark for his career.
Comical Moment of the Night
Andrei Kostitsyn took a wicked Subban slapshot off of his ankle during the second period and fell like a ton of bricks to the ice. He was so debilitated that he had to crawl to the bench. That wasn't the funny part, however.
Linemate Tomas Plekanec, in an attempt to help Kostitsyn to the bench quicker, actually pushed and rolled the Belarusian along the ice, in a move akin to something out of the Three Stooges.
1. Price was on top of his game.
The Oilers are a team that has a whole slew of explosive offensive players in their forward ranks; Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Dustin Penner and Sam Gagner, just to name a few. The problem for the Oil is more on the defensive side of the puck where their backend could be described as thin, at best.
There were several times last night where the young Oilers squad had excellent scoring chances but Price was there to shut the door each time. Well, at least until his teammates stopped playing in front of him.
It was almost like as the scoring chances got better and better for Edmonton, Price stepped up his game in response, even putting a little twist on his glove saves for flair.
Yes, Price is a goaltender who feels good in his skin and is absolutely dominating the league right now. He is the main reason why the Habs PK—which killed off four of five penalties last night—is second in the league at 90.1 percent.
Price is also the reason why the Habs are the second stingiest team in the league having allowed only 51 goals against in 25 games—the Bruins are in first having allowed 47 goals but have played two fewer games. Despite the loss, the Habs still have not let in more than three goals in regulation and that begins and ends with Carey Price.
2. Tomas Plekanec's line was flying last night.
Plekanec, Brian Gionta and Andrei Kostitsyn came out of the starting gate like they had been shot out of a cannon. They were all over the Oilers' defensive zone and had several scoring chances before the game was five minutes old.
Kostitsyn in particular, was playing to the height of his considerable talent last night. Using his huge frame, he was throwing hits and powering to the net with the puck on his stick. That is a skill that is unique to Kostitsyn, in the Canadiens lineup, due to his strength, size and ability to dangle the puck at speed. When he uses his size to his advantage, Kostitsyn is like a human wrecking ball and becomes a force to be reckoned with.
If he can make a habit of playing that way every night, this guy will become a 30-plus goal scorer in no time.
3. There Habs were turnover machines.
And I don't mean the Pillsbury kind.
The Canadiens, in general, tend to turn the puck over a lot but because of Price's exceptional play so far this season, most do not end up in the back of the net. Last night, however, Price was not able to make the saves to cover up for his teammates on two occasions, and the result was a loss.
The two most costly turnovers were both caused by Michael Cammalleri and Subban. On the third period tying goal by the Oilers, Cammalleri turned the puck over on the power play from just inside the Oilers blueline. The turnover was compounded when Subban decided to slide at the puck in an effort to keep it in the Oilers zone. The two defending Oilers players jumped over Subban and came out with a 2-on-1 with Spacek as the sole defender. You have to give credit where credit is due because Sam Gagner's shot found a hole over Price's shoulder just a little bigger than the puck itself.
That being said, Subban should have had the presence of mind to know that up by one goal on the power play, with less than seven minutes to play in the game is not the right time to be taking chances like that.
Subban made another error in overtime when he passed the puck to Cammalleri with the Oilers player only a few feet away. Subban then headed to the bench rather than waiting to see what happened with the play. Cammalleri, likely seeing the oncoming Oilers play in his periphery, bobbled the puck sending Penner in all alone on Price. While Subban turned and went after Penner he was already too far behind to be able to catch him.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Cammalleri took a few strides to catch Penner but then simply stopped skating and let him have an unmolested break. I'm not sure what he was thinking but that is simply unacceptable, especially from a veteran.
4. Scott Gomez finally scored but...
Gomez potted the first goal of the game when he threw the puck out front on the power play, and it went off of Ray Whitney's stick and in. It wasn't pretty, but he'll take it!
Despite his goal, however, Gomez still didn't and isn't playing well. The unfortunate side effect of his malaise is that he is taking winger Michael Cammalleri down the drain with him. Cammalleri looked frustrated and like he was trying to do far too much on the ice. Moreover, he looks like he is trying to do it all by himself and, as a result, ends up being less effective.
While he did have two assists last night, Cammalleri's poor decision making and turnovers led directly to the tying and winning goals by the Oilers.
Cammalleri is a goal scorer and, as they pointed out on RDS last night, plays best when he does not have the puck. He needs to give the puck to his setup man then position himself for the shot. Last year, when Cammalleri was ripping it up, he was doing exactly that with Plekanec. Right now, he is unfortunately saddled with Gomez and is trying to make things happen by himself as a result.
This is not the type of game that Cammy should be playing and, until he has another center, I fear his confidence will continue to slip and he will continue to flounder.
How much longer can the coaching staff keep Gomez on the second line when he is clearly the biggest problem in the Habs' top-six? Yes, the biggest problem. I think at this point, Gomez's ineffectiveness has eclipsed the Habs need for a second line winger.
5. It's time for a shakeup.
With news from RDS that the Canadiens have placed Andrei Markov on list of injured players, it seems just a matter of time before he goes on the Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) and the remainder of his $5.75 million salary comes off of the cap.
As such, the time is ripe for the Canadiens to shake things up.
While the Habs are playing decent hockey and are doing well in the standings, now is the time to make a move and not when/if the team starts slumping. The first thing that needs to happen, before looking outside of the organization, is the coaching staff has to change things up within their current roster.
Gomez should no longer be playing on the second line and, with the emergence of and excellent play from Lars Eller over the last five games, he seems like the best candidate to fill that spot.
Down in Hamilton, Max Pacioretty continues to dominate the AHL having just been named November's player of the month. Pacioretty followed up the award by scoring another two goals in last night's game, and now has 27 points including 13 goals in 25 games. While I am reticent about bringing him up now and like the idea of him continuing to dominate in the AHL, he seems like the best suited player to take Moen's spot on the second line.
Despite their outward support for Gomez, you know that both GM Pierre Gauthier and Coach Martin have serious concerns about his play. They have to know that there is no way the Canadiens can be successful, long term, with a player as ineffective as Gomez in their top-six and they must be looking at alternatives.
Until they decide to change things up, however, it looks like Gomez will continue to keep getting as much rope as he needs. And that, to me, is a crying shame.
Standings and Next Game
The Canadiens picked up one point for the overtime loss and now have 32 in the standings—four points ahead of Boston with 28 and two games in hand.
The Canadiens have no time to dwell on this loss that should have been a win, as they are right back at it tonight against the New Jersey Devils in Jersey.
Yannick Weber will be making a return to the lineup tonight but we don't yet know who will be sitting in the place. There is also no word yet on whether he will be playing D or as a fourth line forward.
Johan Hedberg gets the start for the Devils with no official word yet on the Habs starter. The puck drops at around 7:05 pm.
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