The Montreal Canadiens are sweating, praying and holding their collective breath on the health of goaltender Jake Allen.
The Habs goalie exited the game in the first period in their 3-2 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
While he did clear concussion protocol, head injuries are notoriously unpredictable. Just ask Jonathan Drouin, who cleared protocol the last time the Canadiens played Detroit but has missed the last five games due to recurring headaches.
Pressure off Poehling
The Habs jumped out to an early lead courtesy of a young player who seems to be seizing his chance.
Ryan Poehling, Alex Belzile and Michael Pezzetta have established an identity on the fourth line for the Montreal Canadiens. Pezzetta drove to the outside before stopping and centering the puck to a cutting Poehling. The Habs 2016 first rounder placed a snapshot through the skates of Marc Staal and past Alex Nedeljkovic to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. You could tell that goal meant a lot to him based on his celebration afterwards. His skating legs were going all game long after that as he hopes to never see Laval again.
Spotters stop Allen
Detroit responded rather well after Poehling’s goal in a game that was genuinely entertaining from start to finish. But it was some foolish friendly fire that turned the tide in the Red Wings favour.
Dylan Larkin sped into the Canadiens zone late in the period. The Detroit captain appeared to have a step on Jeff Petry as he took the puck towards Jake Allen’s goal. Inexplicably the Habs defenceman pushed Larkin in the back and plowing directly into Allen. The collision sent the Canadiens goaltender and his helmet flying. Although he tried to carry on, concussion spotters removed Allen from the game to go to the quiet room to check for a potential concussion. He passed concussion protocol but wasn’t risked the rest of the way.
The game was Samuel Montembeault’s from then on and it didn’t start particularly well for him in the second period. First, Larkin caught Montembeault cheating at his near post and wired an inch-perfect shot from the goal line past the Habs goaltender’s ear. Just a few minutes later, Pezzetta lost his man in his own zone and Pius Suter walked right down main street. While in a dangerous scoring area, the save was another one Montembeault should have made. Four minutes into the second, the momentum was flipped in favour of the home team and the Habs were down 2-1.
The Montreal Canadiens back-up settled in after that, with the team’s defencemen clearing some of the more juicy rebounds from the path of Red Wings attackers. Credit to Montembeault after his early struggles, he made some important albeit clunky saves. The Habs pushed hard for the equalizer but it just wouldn’t happen for them. Tyler Toffoli probably had the chance of the period but his drive to the net comedically deflected on to the top of the Detroit net rather than past Nedeljkovic.
An assist and an exit
The back and forth action continued in the third period in the spirited Original Six tilt.
He may not be able to hit the side of a barn door at times, but Artturi Lehkonen once again showed Montreal Canadiens fans why his commitment can never be questioned. As the Finn cruised into the Red Wings zone, he got caught and then caught up with Robby Fabbri about 30 feet from the goal. Lehkonen crashed back first into the base of the boards to the right of the Red Wings goal.
In obvious pain, the Canadiens forward nevertheless tried to make something happen with the puck within reach. From his knees, he fired a no-look backhand pass into the slot. The puck found a pinching Chris Wideman who has been key to the Habs improved power-play. The Habs defeneman made no mistake beating Nedeljkovic top shelf on the blocker side to even the score up at 2-2. Lehkonen made his way to the bench and into the locker room but did return later in the period.
The Montreal Canadiens seized the momentum the rest of the way. The end-to-end hockey that was on display earlier was replaced with grinding and crashing that the Habs appeared to relish.
To the fourth period!
After not playing past regulation the first 12 games of the season, the Habs played 3-on-3 for the second time in three games.
Jake Evans should have ended proceedings within the first two minutes of overtime all alone in the slot after some great hustle by Toffoli. But his shot went right into the gut of Nedeljkovic.
After a swing and a miss by Mike Hoffman, Larkin and Lucas Raymond raced up the ice on a 2-on-1. Montembeault made an initial athletic save on Raymond as he cut to the backhand in front of the Habs goaltender. But the rebound carromed off the back boards and on to the stick of Larkin. The Red Wings captain snuck it past Montembeault from a tough angle to give the home team the victory.
No rest for the weary as the 4-10-2 Montreal Canadiens take on their rivals the Boston Bruins for the first time in almost two years at TD Banknorth Garden tomorrow night. The team announced post-game that they have recalled goaltender Cayden Primeau from the Laval Rocket. Maybe the former Northeastern goalie will be in nets in the city he used to call home tomorrow night.