The Montreal Canadiens may have played a heated game the night before, but they outworked and outplayed the New York Rangers en route to a gutsy 2-1 win in the Big Apple.
The Canadiens may have started the game with a little bit of hesitancy, but Samuel Montembeault held down the fort and the club locked it down to frustrate the Rangers in the second and third periods.
It was a significant show of effort from the Canadiens, coming out with a ton of energy in the second leg of a back-to-back. The Canadiens cleared the garbage in front of the net and held the Rangers to the perimeter during the entirety of the game; allowing for a faster transition and more possession time.
That allowed the Canadiens’ top offensive weapons in Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Kirby Dach, who weren’t playing on the same line tonight, to go to work.
Kirby Dach once again looked like a legit second-line centre, while Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield knocked on the door all game long before eventually getting the game-winner halfway through the third period.
It was a gutsy win for the Montreal Canadiens, showing a lot of character and resilience; most of which were from the Canadiens’ younger players.
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The Canadiens had themselves a strong start to the game, but it wouldn’t have been possible without Samuel Montembeault.
The 26-year-old played a stellar game against the New York Islanders and followed it up by standing on his head in the first period and pushing back all 14 of the New York Rangers’ shots.
The Rangers were pressing and had some great chances to take the lead throughout the game, as many teams have done against the Canadiens this season, but it was Montembeault who stood tall and gave his team a chance to win.
He’s now stopped 75 of his last 78 shots, and has been one of the major reasons the Canadiens have been able to hold a near .500 record since returning from their road trip earlier this month.
His rebound control and puck detection have been impressive, as he’s not rattled with heavy traffic in his zone, and his lateral movements have been much better timed of late; allowing him to make some clutch saves as of late.
With Jake Allen missing the last four games, Montembeault has played of the best hockey of his career and has more than shown he should play 30 or more games this season for the Montreal Canadiens.
Red Hot Cole
Cole Caufield has been the most impactful offensive player for the Canadiens as of late, scoring seven goals in his last eight games.
He looked dangerous all game on the top line with Nick Suzuki and Joel Armia, getting robbed by Igor Shesterkin on a few occasions.
Caufield would not be denied, however, as Suzuki capitalized on a K’Andre Miller blunder to slide over the puck to Caufield who was not going to miss such an opportunity from that close to the net.
Caufield’s goal was his 26th of the season so far, which has Caufield tied for 9th in the NHL for goal-scoring; tied with the likes of Leon Draisaitl and Mark Scheifele.
That’s some pretty good company for the 22-year-old.
Yeah, Cole Caufield isn't missing from there.
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) January 16, 2023
Kirby Dach has been a revelation this season, but, despite being a perfect complement on the top line with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, always seems to have his best games at centre.
And he showed it tonight.
The 21-year-old looked dominant for the Canadiens, playing a strong, two-way game and looked to be in his element. Being a centre, the puck was on his stick more often, and the extra puck touches allowed him to dictate the pace for his line.
It seemed to give him more confidence in his game, which he took with him into the power play as well, where he fired home a laser past Igor Shesterkin for his 8th goal of the season.
It remains to be seen where Kirby Dach will end up, as a top-line power forward or a solid 2nd line centre, but either way, his positive development this season is one of the Canadiens’ bright spots.
Kirby Dach makes it 1-0 off the rush on the power play pic.twitter.com/NkAJhZ90UX
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) January 15, 2023