With the fall from grace (and standing) the Montreal Canadiens have suffered since losing Carey Price to injury back in November, tonight's tilt in the Bell Centre may have given the appearance of an easy win coming in tonight. Sure, the Stars defense is somewhat depleted, but Nill has seemed pretty confident in the roster's depth, right?
Kari Lehtonen started in net tonight, his fourth time this season playing three games in a row, his second time starting four. Since coming in as relief for Niemi in the 5-3 loss to the Predators, he's had a .932 Sv%, allowing 4 goals on 60 shots. It's a small sample size, but that's still much better than the .907 Sv% over 33 games for the season. Despite the less-than-stellar save percentage tonight, Lehtonen had a few times tonight when he came up came up with some big, game changing saves. Unfortunately for all of us, not in overtime.
The game started well. Cody Eakin scored early in the first off a deflected wrap around attempt by Jason Demers. Wrap arounds don't happen often, treasure them when you can. And, amazingly, the Stars did not immediately give up a goal on the next shift. (Not on this goal, anyway.)
That came later in the game, when Canadiens' captain Max Pacioretty caught Andrei Markov's shot on his skate, which deflected into the net. Markov got the puck from Galchenyuk right off the face off while the Stars were still scrambling into position.
Pacioretty finished the first period getting a holding the stick penalty literally at the buzzer. Jason Spezza made good use of the power play, scoring 17 seconds into the second period off a shot from the point.
Unfortunately, (this was the earlier foreshadowing) the Stars could not keep the puck out of their net for the next minute of game play. The Canadiens carried the puck down into the Stars zone. Jason Demers got caught up with Sven Andrighetto behind the net and Alex Galchenyuk capitalized on the free space in front of the net.
About three minutes later, Greg Pateryn took a shot from the point off the face off. It went wide, bounced off the boards and right onto Phillip Danault's stick, right by the net. He had no trouble getting the puck past Lehtonen since, at that point, he was literally already behind him.
And since this was just the night for wrap around goals, Ales Hemsky got one of his own with a minute left to go in the second to bring the game back to even.
Also in the second, Jason Demers took what looked like an awkward hit from Lucas Lessio against the boards. It wasn't particularly hard, but Demers took a while to get up and did not return to the game.
Demers looks like he got injured on this play. pic.twitter.com/icQjKWcm5j— Dylan Nadwodny (@dnadders) March 9, 2016
The third period was scoreless, but not penalty-less. Johnny Oduya took a hooking penalty on Stefan Matteau to save a breakaway. And then on the ensuing Canadiens' power play, Alex Galchenyuk took a tripping penalty against Kris Russell.
In OT, Russell broke his stick trying to clear the puck from the Stars zone. Stickless defending in front of the net is probably not that great an idea. It ended with Galchenyuk scoring the game winner around Russell's screen. And that was the game.
Bad news? According to Lindy Ruff, Jason Demers might be out as long as the rest of the season. (Which is only 14 games at this point.)
Good news? The Stars got three out of four points on the road trip and are headed back to face the Blackhawks on home ice. (That might not be part of the good news.) We're within four points of last year's total for the year, and we still have 14 games to go. And? We're not chasing a percentage of wins to get into the playoffs. We're pretty much there, guys. We're just battling for position now.