Forward lines and defense pairings
Pacioretty – Danault – Shaw
Galchenyuk – Mitchell – Lehkonen
Byron – Plekanec – Gallagher
Hudon – De La Rose – Froese
Alzner – Petry
Morrow – Benn
Mete – Davidson
David Schlemko – hand, Ales Hemsky – concussion symptoms, Nikita Scherbak – knee, Carey Price – lower-body, Jonathan Drouin – hand, Shea Weber – lower-body
Since these two teams met one week ago, their fortunes had been going in opposite directions. The Canadiens had won three straight games while Minnesota had lost three games, including one in Toronto the night before. At home, the Habs had an opportunity to take advantage of a tired and reeling team.
But Montreal was the team that came out flat. From the drop of the puck the Wild pressed, controlling the play in the Canadiens end like they had the extra man. Minnesota sprinted out to an early 7-0 advantage in shots.
Before tonight, it shouldn’t have been controversial to acknowledge that Shea Weber is the Canadiens most valuable skater. But it took a game where he couldn’t play to drive home that fact beyond any doubt.
While some were quick to praise the blueline corps post-game, it’s likely due to expectations being so low. In the absence of Weber, the role of the number one defencemen fell to Jeff Petry, who led the Canadiens with 27 and a half minutes of icetime. Petry was also tops in power-play time with 3:37.
The 29-year-old defenseman offered little in the way of offence with the man advantage and was guilty of a gaffe (along with Charles Hudon’s failure to backcheck) that led to Minnesota’s short-handed goal. Petry finished the night at minus-2.
The mistakes in his own end started early for Petry. A ill-timed attempt at a hip check sprung Tyler Ennis for a breakaway. Ennis’ shot rang off the goal post for an early scoring chance.
The rest of the defence was decidedly ordinary. Jordie Benn was unable to tie up Jason Zucker allowing him to redirect a point shot for the Wild second goal.
But weak defensive play wasn’t restricted to the rearguards. Phillip Danault had a rough night in his own end. In the second period, Jason Zucker went around Danault who gave the Wild forward a stick wave.
After a poke check by Karl Alzner, Danault was given a second chance to make a defensive play but was weak on the puck. It was Nino Niederreiter with the takeaway and pass to Eric Staal who had a grade A scoring chance from the slot. Charlie Lindgren made a great save.
Danault was also lazy on the backcheck in the third period allowing Niederreiter to grab a loose puck and fire it towards the goal. It was the shot that was directed into the net by Zucker.
It’s unclear whether it was his abysmal defensive play (finishing the game at minus-2) or his feeble offensive contribution, with one shot in almost 22 minutes of icetime, that convinced RDS that Danault was worthy of the game’s third star. Or perhaps it was something else entirely, not at all related to his play on the ice.
The Canadiens offence racked up the shots, especially for the first half of the second period, but failed to produce many quality scoring chances. Alex Galchenyuk was the most dangerous Canadien with eight shots on goal. Galchenyuk and Artturi Lehkonen looked particularly strong together.
But even in the absence of Jonathan Drouin, Claude Julien stayed true to his word that, in his mind, number 27 is a winger. It appears that, to Julien, stubbornly clinging to the notion is more important than putting Galchenyuk in a position to succeed right now.
Charlie Lindgren deserved a better result in this one. Lindgren did everything in his power to help his team. And undoubtedly deserved a star for his efforts.
Which leaves the officiating. The Canadiens had goals from Karl Alzner and Charles Hudon disallowed in this game. It is becoming more difficult every night to know what is a valid goal and what isn’t.
While there is some validity to the claim that Hudon interfered with Devan Dubnyk, we have seen circumstances where a goal counted with more blatant obstruction. The stronger case may have been for Alzner’s goal which did not seem to have been struck with a high stick on the replays.
The Canadiens will now prepare to host teh Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night, the third game of the homestand.
▲ Charlie Lindgren, Alex Galchenyuk, Artturi Lehkonen
▼ Phillip Danault, Max Pacioretty, Jeff Petry, Charles Hudon, Jordie Benn, Victor Mete, Byron Froese, Joe Morrow, Jordie Benn.