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Red Wings Can’t Match Price, Fall to Canadiens 3-1

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Bernier outdueled by Price as Habs goaltender becomes franchise’s leader in wins

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings came into tonight’s matchup with the Montreal Canadiens after receiving a beat down from Florida on Sunday, losing 6-1. If that wasn’t reason enough for an improved performance tonight, you may remember the last game against the Canadiens two weeks ago was one of the team’s worst performances of the season, losing 8-1.

To make matters worse, the original projected return of Dylan Larkin to the lineup tonight was proven too hopeful as it was announced the young stalwart will miss at least another week with his neck strain. Andreas Athanasiou was the most likely candidate to take his place between Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi. The rest of the lineup up front leaves a little to be desired, with the other line to keep an eye on featuring Nielsen between Vanek and the young Zadina nearing the end of what will likely be his 9-game stint. The Canadiens are one of the teams, you may remember, Zadina promised to fill their net with pucks. On the back end the only change was Bowey was scratched for Witkowski. In goal Jonathan Bernier got the start.

For the Habs, Tomas Tatar got to play host to his old teammates and has seemingly slowed down a bit since a hot start to the season. He’s still managed 22 goals on the season and his last one was against the Wings two weeks ago. Max Domi has gone cold as well only able to produce one point in his last five games. The man to beat in goal was Carey Price, looking to set the franchise record for wins.

Would the stink of their last performance against this team be enough to inspire this squad to an improved showing?

1st Period

The first chance of the game belonged to Athanasiou who was sprung on a breakaway via a Tatar giveaway. But as AA made a move to his backhand Price was able to stretch out and make a nice glove save. A few moments later it was Tatar who found himself on a breakaway the other way. He made a quick move to his forehand side but ran out of room and couldn’t get his shot over Bernier’s extended pad. That Tatar chance led to a brief flurry from the Canadiens but they couldn’t put one past Bernier.

Around the 5:00 mark Witkowski almost separated Drouin’s body from his soul on a hit he narrowly missed getting all of the Habs forward as Drouin was cutting over the blue line. But moments later Witkowski was able to step up on Armia at the blue line and deliver a hit. After a quick paced start to the game, both teams settled in and Montreal proceeded to pick up the next few shots through the middle section of the period but nothing of the high danger variety. De la Rose had a good opportunity when a pass was made to him streaking into the slot but the pass was a bit off the mark and he couldn’t handle it off his skates in front of Price. Not long later De la Rose found himself in the box on a tripping call sending Montreal to the powerplay. The Wings penalty kill was at its best and never allowed the Canadiens to get set up in the zone on the powerplay. But during the powerplay Ericsson went down awkwardly near the Wings bench when a Habs player fell on the back of his leg. The replay showed his leg bent at an awkward angle and take your pick on if it was something related to his ankle, knee, or hip. He had to be helped off the ice by his teammates not putting any weight on his right leg.

Bernier made a nice series of back to back saves by first stopping a deflected Weber shot through traffic and then snatching the rebound attempt by Tatar to keep the game scoreless. Even more impressive was a save he made quickly sliding across his crease to make a shoulder save on Kulak after a cross seam pass by Domi. In the later minutes of the period Domi and Helm got into it a bit in front of Price, while Shaw took it upon himself to come at Helm from behind while he was engaged with Domi. Nothing too nefarious but shady nonetheless. Mantha took a heavy hit from Weber in the Montreal corner while retrieving a puck, but bounced up to his feet quickly. Late in the period Tatar went to the box for interference after trying to obstruct Hronek on his attempt to get back in position on a Montreal rush. The Wings carried 1:27 of the powerplay into the second period.

The Wings were outshot 13-5 in the period. The 4th line was a bright spot, never generating a scoring chance but did tend to get offensive zone time on their shifts. Rasmussen is establishing himself physically down low in the offensive zone winning puck battles along the boards. The next step for him is to develop better skills with control of the puck and on the rush. Other than one shot attempt from the right circle that went a bit wide, Zadina did not leave much of an impression in the period.

2nd Period

The update on Jonathan Ericsson was that he was out for the remainder of the game with a lower body injury, likely his knee. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious for the big man. Price made a nice blocker save on a Mantha one timer from the top of the right circle after Nielsen dropped a pass to him there. After that Daley threw a floater towards the net that Price was able to track just in time reacting late to make the save through traffic. The Wings had strong possession early in the period earning the first four shots of the period.

Montreal began to push back after the strong start to the period by Detroit. The Wings earned a powerplay after Zadina made a nice touch flip pass to De la Rose in the neutral zone with De la Rose and Ehn getting a two on one chance on the play. Benn slid into De la Rose tripping him drawing the penalty. Price was stellar on the powerplay as the Wings peppered him with several shots. His biggest save was on a a rebound attempt by Rasmussen that Price stretched his left pad out for to keep it out of the net.

It was Detroit’s turn in the penalty box after that as Hronek picked up a penalty for tripping in front of Bernier. Right away Bernier came up big on a save on a Danault one timer in close from between the hash marks on a pass from below the goal line. Montreal’s powerplay looked much more dangerous this time around. But the Wings did get a shorthanded chance as De la Rose slid a pass into the crease area to a crashing Abdelkader but Price was able to shut the door and prevent the redirection from squeaking through him. The Habs went the other way after the chance and established possession again. Shaw picked up the puck on the right half boards after a ring around. He quickly sent a shot low to the net that Domi was able to get a stick on and deflect over Bernier’s shoulder to the short side, 1-0 Canadiens.

Not long after the goal the Canadiens’ Weal received a pass in the high slot and leaned into a shot that rang the post but stayed out. Late in the period with 2:28 to play, Tatar rushed into the zone up the left side and pulled up at the boards. He set up a one timer to Kulak as he entered the top of the zone. Kulak blasted a shot into traffic that found the top corner on the short side of Bernier, 2-0 Canadiens.

Late in the period, Domi got into a skirmish with Rasmussen in the corner throwing a jab at the big forward’s face. Wings fans could only be so lucky to see these two scrap, Domi’s tough but that is a massive size advantage to Rasmussen. The period came to a wrap after that with the Wings needing to once again dig themselves out of a hole.

The Habs outshot the Wings 10-7 in the period for a 23-13 advantage overall. There wasn’t much to get excited about in the period for the Wings other than the chances they had on their lone powerplay.

3rd Period

The Wings jumped out quickly in the final period working the puck down low in the Montreal zone. After regrouping at centre ice Kronwall made a terrific pass to Athanasiou through the neutral zone. Athanasiou took the pass in traffic at the Montreal blue line and weaved into three Habs defenders. Just as it looked like he had been squeezed out he forced a shot that beat Price low going back against the flow of the play, 2-1.

That was the start the Wings needed to have a chance to square this one up. But just after that a turnover high in the Wings zone on an ill-advised pass by Bernier to a covered Bertuzzi gave a great chance to Armia but Bernier was able to make the save. It was the Canadiens then with a series of shots and good pressure on the Wings trying to open up their lead once again.

Ehn came close to tying this one up when a pass was sent back into the slot from behind the goal line. A partially tied up Ehn was able to still get a solid shot off but hit the outside of the net. The next chance was from Athanasiou who took a pass into the Habs zone, fell, regrouped and then zigged through two Habs defenders to get a shot off from the high slot that went high. But then on a completely ridiculous sequence, Bertuzzi got a breakaway on a misplay by Benn at the Red Wings blue line. Bertuzzi made a fake to his forehand then went to his backhand and forced Price to go into a full stretch across the goal line. Price made the save and the puck scurried across the crease in front of him. Nielsen crashed the net for the rebound and it bounced off a prone Price back into the crease area where Vanek then followed up and somehow Price kept the puck out of the net throughout the melee.

Price continued to look good as the Wings pressed for the tying goal through the middle of the period including good saves on both Helm and DeKeyser on separate chances. But after weathering the storm from the Wings, Montreal got some sustained pressure and fired some shots towards the goal, most thankfully sailing wide of the target.

With nearly 6:00 remaining, Witkowski got dumped just inside the Montreal blue line by Shaw. Witkowski was not pleased and tried to draw Shaw into a fight but was unsuccessful, and can’t really blame Shaw for not wanting any part of that.

Montreal really bogged things down late in the game preventing the Wings from being able to gain offensive zone time. The Wings made a final push pulling Bernier with 1:20 to play. After a timeout following a Montreal icing with 1:05 to play, the Wings won the draw setting up a shot for Hronek that was blocked. The Canadiens were able to clear the puck and Domi won a foot race and dove to send a puck into the empty net, 3-1 Canadiens. That goal sealed the game for the Canadiens with 0:48 left.

Detroit showed more life in this period than they have in quite awhile but it wasn’t enough to put more than one past the formidable Price who became the all-time leader in wins for the Montreal franchise passing Plante tonight.

Wrapping Up

Games like this make it very evident the team’s need for a game breaker who can finish plays in crunch time. Athanasiou offers great speed but when teams go into trap mode it’s hard to utilise that speed fully. Mantha has shown it in flashes. Larkin is capable but obviously absent tonight. The hope is Zadina can offer that in the future. Speaking of Zadina he played 17:00 in this one but unfortunately you would be hard pressed to remember many plays he made, maybe two or three of note. Obviously it’s early for the young man and it’s tough to jump in at this point in the season to get started when everyone else is nearly in playoff form. Bernier looked great in this game coming up with several huge saves throughout to give his teammates a chance. In the end it wasn’t enough as Price was stellar when called upon in the 3rd period. On to the next one Thursday at home against Tampa.