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Montreal Canadiens

Kotkaniemi scores, silences former fans as Hurricanes beat Canadiens 4-1



Montreal Canadiens

It was a fairytale return for Jesperi Kotkaniemi while the nightmare continued for the Montreal Canadiens. Kotkaniemi scored his first as a Carolina Hurricane in the third period in his return to the Bell Centre and the Canes beat the Habs 4-1.

The bar for the Montreal Canadiens was set remarkably low after their 5-0 loss to the Sharks on Tuesday. There was nowhere else to go but up for the Habs and credit to them, they went there. Their in-zone coverage and support was noticeably better in the first period. There was some Andersen-on-Anderson crime as Canes goalie Freddie stoned Habs forward Josh with the right pad on a breakaway.


The Habs appeared to have taken a season-lifting lead but the war room in Toronto took it away. Brendan Gallagher’s tipped goal in front sent the Bell Centre into delirium. But Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour challenged the play for goalie interference and after a lengthy review it was disallowed. In a first intermission interview with TSN Gallagher was furious saying, “9 out of 10 people can watch it and call it a good goal. The problem is that one person is always there in Toronto.”

In fairness, the league did amend the goaltender interference rule in the summer to make it less subjective. Per the NHL, “If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.” The standard has officially been set. We’ll see if stays that way.

After that setback, offence was still a challenge, especially on the power-play. The Habs could not get much of anything going up a man. Although fans don’t want to hear it, it was understandable.  The Montreal Canadiens are allergic to offence on the power-play and the Hurricanes had the third best penalty kill in the NHL last year.

Hurricanes skill shines through

The train appeared to be going off the rails early in the second and special teams was the culprit again. With Christian Dvorak in the box for a soft slashing call, the Hurricanes began to snap the puck around on the power-play. Habs forward Jake Evans was a bit too aggressive at the blueline and it created a cross-seam lane. Carolina winger Teuvo Teravainen dropped an inch-perfect pass into Sebastian Aho’s wheelhouse and he beat Jake Allen to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead.

Not two minutes later and the Canes had a two-goal advantage. A mix-up in defensive coverage between Alexander Romanov and David Savard had the Russian caught in no-man’s land in front of his net. Carolina winger Andrei Svechnikov got the puck with time near the goal line. He got Allen to go down early and then roofed it over the Habs goaltender’s glove for a 2-0 lead to silence the Bell Centre faithful. 

What?!?! A power-play goal?!?!

The second Hurricanes goal clearly affected the fragile Montreal Canadiens as they slumped their way through the next seven minutes. A forechecking shift deep in Carolina territory by the fourth line, a Dvorak shot off the post and a wild scramble in front of the Canes net got the crowd and the team back into the game. After more than 120 minutes of scoreless hockey, the Habs finally snapped that streak. And on the power-play to boot!

Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin played a one-touch pass to Suzuki off the boards. The Habs centreman drove towards the goal line and threw the puck to the front of the net. Carolina defencemen Brett Pesce failed to tie up Tyler Toffoli and his quick shot beat Andersen stick side. With a roar from he and the crowd, the Montreal Canadiens were back within a goal.

A nightmare return for the Canadiens

With the fans back on their side, the Montreal Canadiens pushed hard for the equalizer in the third period. But they were fatally stung by their former teammate mid-way through the period. The puck went around the boards and onto the stick of defenceman Brady Skjei. Cole Caufield lost Kotkaniemi in coverage and the former Habs third-overall pick deflected Skjei’s point shot past Allen in front of the net for his first as a Hurricane and a lead they wouldn’t give up.

Credit to the Canadiens as only bad luck kept them from making the game interesting the second half of the period. A Jonathan Drouin breakaway and two glorious chances by Gallagher and Dvorak somehow stayed out of the Hurricanes net. But despite all of their best efforts, a second goal just wouldn’t come. Almost-Hab Sebastian Aho scored into an empty net to add insult to injury and make it 4-1.

The Montreal Canadiens deserved a better fate tonight but are now off to their worst start since 1995-96, going 0-5 to start the season.