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Canadiens Postgame

Canadiens: Suzuki And Slafkovsky Quick Attack Burns Washington

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Montreal Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki

The Montreal Canadiens were in Washington on Tuesday, facing the Capitals in their first game back since the All-Star break.

Due to Sean Monahan’s trade and Brendan Gallagher’s suspension, head coach Martin St-Louis was forced to draw up new lines while dealing with a clear lack of depth in the lineup.

The top line featured Juraj Slafkovsky, Nick Suzuki, and Cole Caufield, a familiar and effective combination.

However, that’s where the familiarity ended. Brandon Gignac went directly from the AHL to a second line in the NHL after signing his two-year, two-way contract on Sunday. He played between Joel Armia and Josh Anderson. Jake Evans was slotted between Jesse Ylonen and Tanner Pearson on the third line, whereas Lucas Condotta anchored the final trio with Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Michael Pezzetta.

Fortunately for St-Louis, the Capitals also iced a less-than-stellar lineup, something his team took advantage of as they sprinted out of the gates in the first period.

The Canadiens emerged with a well-deserved 5-2 win thanks to both Suzuki and Slafkovsky enjoying two-goal games.

Before we jump into the highlights, I’d like to apologize for the low quality and odd angles. Twitter seems to be compressing videos beyond reason, and the replays in Washington were far from ideal.

Carry The Weight

Suzuki quickly confirmed he was the right player to represent the Habs at the All-Star festivities in Toronto. The captain capitalized on a perfect pass by Cole Caufield, who served as the team’s playmaker on Tuesday night.

In addition to counting as the opening goal of the game, the play also extended Caufield’s point streak to 10 games, a career-high for the young winger.

The goal was an encouraging sign for the Canadiens, and not only because they avoided having yet another difficult start. The Habs tend to generate much fewer rush chances than their opponents, but they flipped the script against the Capitals.

After the initial goal, the Canadiens were in full control of the game, spending long stretches hemming the Capitals in the offensive zone.

The top line scored another goal less than a minute later, with Suzuki finding the back of the net for the second time in the first period. This time around it was Arber Xhekaj, who has an affinity for getting pucks through traffic, that created the second-chance rebound.

Suzuki has scored much nicer goals in the past, but they don’t ask how, they just ask how many. For the record, it was his 15th goal of the season.

Charles No Longer In Charge

And then it happened, they actually did it.

The Montreal Canadiens managed to chase a goaltender for the first in 2023-24 after Michael Pezzetta wrangled a loose puck to put his team ahead 3-0. The fourth line managed to tread water on Tuesday night, which is more than the second and third lines can claim. Rafael Harvey-Pinard, a player who needs to find his rhythm down the stretch, was particularly engaged during every shift.

It would be rather harsh to solely blame Lindgren for allowing three goals on nine shots, as his defence lacked any semblance of structure, but Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery had no choice but to replace his goaltender in a desperate attempt to halt the Canadiens’ momentum.

Ebbs And Flows

While the Habs dominated the first period by controlling over 80 percent of the high-danger chances, it was the Capitals who controlled the flow of the game in the second frame. They held a 5-0 advantage in high-danger shots and an 87 percent share of the shots. In other words, they were dominant.

Alex Ovechkin scored his 10th goal of the year, but things could have been much worse if not for Samuel Montembeault’s excellent play and David Savard’s goal-saving block.

First Audition

An important aspect of hockey analysis involves realistic expectations.

It’s no longer the 80s, which means players on the third and fourth line won’t score 20 goals per season.

With that in mind, we can safely say Gignac enjoyed a good debut with the Montreal Canadiens. The offensive chances were limited, but his defensive play gave plenty of evidence as to why he enjoyed so much success with the Laval Rocket in the AHL.

He’s a hard-working player who will provide an honest effort on every shift, and if he continues to shut down opposing players with good stickwork, as he did when he stopped T.J. Oshie from scoring, he’ll quickly gain St-Louis’ confidence.

Slafgoalsky

The Capitals scored a second goal, but not before Slafkovsky scored one of the cleanest goals of his young NHL career. Full marks to Jake Evans for generating a controlled entry, giving himself and his linemates plenty of open ice to exploit.

It was Slafkovsky’s eighth goal of the season, but more importantly, it was a great shot that will surely help his confidence moving forward.

The youngest player in the lineup followed it up by scoring his second goal of the game, this time on the powerplay. Mike Matheson drew the bulk of his attention at the blue line, giving Slafkovsky all the time necessary to connect with the one-timer and put the game out of reach.

Canadiens fans will remember that Matheson usually passes to Monahan on the powerplay, but now that Monahan is a member of the Winnipeg Jets, Slafkovsky has become a preferred target.

It was Slafkovsky’s first two-goal game of his career, a sign that he’s getting comfortable when it comes to taking shots from high-danger areas.

The Montreal Canadiens will be back in action on Saturday when they face the Dallas Stars at the Bell Centre. The puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm et.


Al Montreal Canadiens statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via Natural Stat Trick.

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peter

I am pretty sure the game is not at 7:00 P.M. it is a matinee game at 12 noon against Dallas and again a matinee game on Sunday with St. Louis. Super Bowl weekend every year 2 matinee games.