It was a wild ride between the Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets, but Montreal seemingly ran out of gas late in the third period, leading to a 6-4 loss.
The Canadiens have made it a habit of fighting back through adversity and staging exciting comebacks, and they did exactly that tonight. Unfortunately for Montreal, they also showed inexperience on defence and gave away way too many chances to the Blue Jackets, resulting in a constant flow of obstacles to overcome.
Despite being decimated by injuries, the Blue Jackets showed a lot of character tonight, keeping up with the Canadiens and jumping on them early to take a 2-0 lead into the dressing room after the first period.
The Canadiens matched their effort in the second period and roared back to tie the game, but it was the third frame that decided the fate of this game.
Led by an impressive performance by goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, who stopped 38 of 42 shots against, and Sean Kuraly, who notched two goals and an assist, all in the third period, the Blue Jackets were able to pull away from the Canadiens in the dire moments of the third period and run away with the game.
Although there is going to be a lot of tape for head coach Martin St-Louis to look over after the game, especially in the defensive zone, there were a lot of positive takeaways to observe in this game:
When Secondary Becomes Primary
For the longest time this season, the biggest complaint has been the lack of secondary scoring, but outside of Suzuki, it was the rest of the forwards doing the heavy lifting offensively tonight.
Brendan Gallagher has looked increasingly good over the last two weeks and seems to be finding his groove. Amongst the top-10 players in the NHL for high-danger chances in the NHL, he capitalized on one tonight to make it 3-3 early in the third period.
The veteran has seemingly come to life in the offensive zone, combining his never-say-die motor with some smart plays down low, creating high quantities of chances for his teammates. Tonight, he was finally fed a golden opportunity, and he buried it.
Similarly, Josh Anderson has been knocking at the door ever since he scored the opening goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. The power forward continues to show good hustle around the net and has improved his ability to get shots on net as of late; resulting in a higher quality shot selection.
— Chris G (@ChrisHabs360) November 18, 2022
Making Up The Difference
The first period was a difficult ride for Jordan Harris and defensive partner Jonathan Kovacevic.
The pair of defencemen were on the ice for both of Columbus’ first period goals and looked uncharacteristically discombobulated by the intense forecheck of the Blue Jackets.
Harris was committing a number of nervous turnovers and just not playing like the safe and stable force on the back end that we’ve seen this season.
But Harris picked himself up and came out with a much stronger second period, where he looked calm and composed.
Harris has shown an ability to adapt rather quickly to adversity and he showed exactly that in this game; not only shoring up his defensive play, but taking advantage to jump up in the play in the offensive zone.
That extra spark in his game earned him a few offensive zone chances, the last of which was a powerful shot that beat Korpisalo to begin the Canadiens’ comeback in the second period.
— Chris G (@ChrisHabs360) November 18, 2022
X Gon’ Give It To Ya
Montreal Canadiens defenceman Arber Xhekaj dropped the gloves yet again, this time against Mathieu Olivier of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The 21-year-old defenceman has not been shy about taking on all comers and he two players were seemingly looking for eachother all game.
After the Montreal Canadiens tied up the game, coming back from a 2-0 deficit, Olivier and Xhekaj dropped the gloves and put on a respectable show; albeit not one of Xhekaj’s most prolific tilts.
I am calling this one a split decision for Arber Xhekaj pic.twitter.com/kgSQddNdIa
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) November 18, 2022
Xhekaj has made a habit out of using his fists this season to defend his teammates and give his team some much-needed momentum.
In games where he continues to learn the pace and speed in the NHL, he continues to gain the approval of his temmates and the fans with his physical play and the obvious rough stuff.