The Montreal Canadiens haven’t played in many close games this season.
That’s what happens when you get blown out repeatedly through the first 13 games of the season.
So when the Habs were tied 1-1 with the Los Angeles Kings going into the third period, the question was how would they cope in a game that was on a knife’s edge?
Well, it was a mixed bag.
The Canadiens eventually rebounded from an ugly second period to earn a point late in the third. But Adrian Kempe’s goal in overtime ended the comeback bid for the Habs as they lost 3-2.
Fine first, shaky second
The Habs got the all-important first goal after a decent start in a hilarious sequence that summed up the early part of their season. The perennially snake bit Artturi Lehkonen had multiple chances in tight stopped by a combination of Kings goaltender Cal Pederson and Olli Maata’s stick. Mercifully, the puck fell to Ben Chiarot at the side of the net. On a night where he joined the rush remarkably well, Chiarot deposited his deserved goal into an open net to make it 1-0.
The Habs saw out the first but couldn’t cope with L.A. in the second. The Kings outshot the Canadiens 16-5 in a middle period that has been kryptonite to the tricolore so far this year. Michael Pezzetta’s tripping penalty set the wheels in motion for a momentum shift towards the visitors.
The home team bent but didn’t break on the penalty kill. But shortly after proceedings on the ice were evened up, Brendan Lemieux drove in down the left side. Jake Allen was caught going down early and Lemieux went bar down short side to tie things up at 1-1.
Allen made up for it before the period was over with a brilliant save on the returning Phillip Danault. Allen stretched out every sinew of his body to get a left toe on Danault’s shot off a cross-ice feed. Chants of “Allen, Allen, Allen!” echoed throughout the Bell Centre as the Canadiens survived the Kings onslaught going into the third.
Unfortunately for him, Allen’s good work was undone six seconds into the final 20 minutes. Alex Iafallo beat David Savard to a loose puck off the opening faceoff. The Kings forward took the puck into the Habs zone and his shot from a bad angle on the left side went through Allen to make it the fastest goal to start a period in Kings history.
The Tsar with the Turning Point
Down 2-1 early in the third period, the momentum looked as though it was going to continue to slip away from the Montreal Canadiens. But it was one of their improving young players who swung 21,000 fans in the Habs favour.
Alexander Romanov took the directives from his coaching staff to heart when he was made a healthy scratch last week. He showed once again he still has a penchant for running threw people and he let Rasmus Kupari know it. The young Russian levelled the Kings forward just as he crossed the red line to re-energize the dormant fans in the building.
It probably woke up some of his sleepier teammates as well as the game opened up after that. Brendan Gallagher spurned two fantastic chances in front of the net to the groans of the crowd. You could forgive the Habs fans in the building for starting to get worried.
But a moment of magic from Jake Evans changed everything. With just over six minutes left, Evans drove into the zone from the right side, one-on-one with Tobias Bjornfot. The Habs centreman deked Bjornfot inside and out before wiring a snipe past Pederson for the highlight-reel equalizer.
The Kings appeared to lose a step after that, likely feeling the heavy legs in the second night of a back-to-back. Pederson denied Mike Hoffman a certain winner in the slot as he threw out a right pad to rob the Habs forward and leave him shaking his head in disgust.
Overtime? What’s that?
The better of the chances fell to the Montreal Canadiens in their first overtime game so far this season. The Habs controlled the play, with each player cautious not to turn the puck over. Josh Anderson’s drive to the net, Christian Dvorak’s shot on a 2-on-1 and Nick Suzuki’s wrap around were all turned aside by Pederson. The Kings goalie had an impressive outing, stopping 35 shots to keep his team within a shot of the extra point.
That shot came with just under 90 seconds left in the fourth frame. Adrian Kempe drew Evans out towards the blueline as the Habs played man in their own zone. The Swede attacked the open ice behind the Montreal Canadiens centreman. He blew past him to the outside and beat Allen low to the short side to leave the home team with the lone loser point.
The Montreal Canadiens are now 3-10-1 on the season. They wrap up their five-game home stand Thursday night against the 7-1-3 Calgary Flames.