Habsent Malice: Wings beat Montreal 4-2 in Canadiens’ home opener

The Red Wings headed into Montreal for a chance to overcome their first loss of the season, meeting a Montreal team that last played against Buffalo the previous night. The Habs lost in OT to the Sabres and are so far 3-for-3 in overcoming two-goal deficits and in heading to OT.  This is their home opener.  The Wings haven’t beaten the Habs in forever.

Let’s see how this one plays out.

NHL.com Coverage: Box Score, Etc.

First Period

Ahhhhhh shit it’s a Canadiens’ home opener so get comfy because this recap is going to start as late as the game itself.
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Not yet
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Blah blah Canada my home an native blah
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HOLY ASS DROP THE PUCK ALREADY
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Ok HERE we go.

Jeff Blashill throws out the fourth line to start things out of sheer disrespect for the Canadiens. This shift goes just fine. The second shift saw the Wings go 1-for-1 on not getting scored on by Tomas Tatar. We’ll see how long that lasts. I promise I won’t go shift-by-shift all night, but I do need to mention that Larkin’s line was up third and created the first good look for the Wings (quelle surprise!)

The second and third cycles around the lines favored the Habs, who put good pressure on Detroit to prevent the Wings from getting any puck control and creating a few good looks. The Wings managed to get one good look before the commercial break as Hirose made a good cross-ice feed to Athanasiou on a rush.

The play between the first and second commercial breaks isn’t much more-promising, as the Habs continue to drive the majority of play interspersed with the occasional shift by Bertuzzi-Larkin-Manthat that gives us hope.

Fortunately, despite the Habs’ carrying play, the Wings get on the board first as a Habs turnover to de la Rose leads to a Danny DeKeyser point shot which is blocked in front and  that Darren Helm cleans up in front to make it 1-0 Wings.

Helm got to stay out for the follow-on shift and promptly created two more scoring chances for the Wings, proving you can’t stop Darren Helm except for at least 2/3rds of the time. Price gets to feeling himself pretty quickly as he makes a big stop on Taro Hiros right out of the break off a lovely dig from Glendening and feed from Athanasiou.

Hey you wanna guess which line creates the next good Wings’ chance?  TOO BAD I’M GOING TO TELL YOU ANYWAY; IT WAS ANTHONY MANTHA HITTING THE CROSSBAR.

The Wings would not appear to escape the period with the lead, as a bad dump-in by Filppula leads to an icing faceoff that the Habs win to Bernier’s right. Joel Armia picks up the puck and snaps it past Bernier to make it 1-1.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE

Just about 30 seconds later, Tyler Bertuzzi makes it 2-1 wings. A wide shot from DeKeyser bounces to lil Bert for the putaway.

The Score: 2-1 Wings
The Shots: 14-13 Detroit
Standout Players: Anthony Mantha, Darren Helm, Taro Hirose, Danny DeKeyser
The Period all Summed up: Room for improvement, but you like the score

Second Period

Again, Blashill starts us off with the fourth line. He really hates Montreal. Our first good chance(s) of the period come from some line you might have heard of featuring Dylan Larkin. First a feed to Cholowski and then a net-front scrum with Bertuzzi that Price has to stop. Unfortunately the momentum ends when Mantha takes a high-sticking call just about three minutes in. Our first PK of the night.

The Wings get 1:39 into the PK, but the Habs end up tying it up as a Jeff Petry shot bounces off the back glass and over the net into the crease where Domi pops it in. 2-2 game.

The Habs carry momentum through the follow-on shift and end up with another man advantage as Patrik Nemeth gets caught flat-footed by Armia and trips him up.  The Habs get several dangerous looks on this advantage, but we also get shorthanded chances by Glendening and Larkin (who is just beaten to a loose puck by Carey Price coming out above the faceoff circle).

The Wings are able to gain a bit of momentum out of the successful PK and we see a nice push to the front of the net by Adam Erne along with another good scoring chance by the top line.  Later, AA gets some speed behind the D but not enough space to make a big move on Price.

Things settle for a bit before the Wings get their first power play on a slashing call. We start things off with Shea Weber cross-checking Dylan Larkin and then get some break in action before the PP gets set up and finishes with Cholowski feeding Mantha for a one-timer that he blasts through Price to make it 3-2 Detroit.

The immediate follow-up is Montreal pressure aided by an uncalled hand-pass.

The Score: 3-2 Detroit
The Shots: 27-23 Wings
Standout Players: Adam Erne, Anthony Mantha, Danny DeKeyser, Taro Hirose
The Period all Summed up: Christoffer Ehn checked a linesman, proving that the Wings are playing against two teams out there.

Third Period

Three periods started with the same line (I don’t want to call them the fourth line anymore tonight).  Blashill is showing all of Quebec his rear end. He’s steaming mad at the thought of Montreal even existing.

Patrik Nemeth starts us off with the first scoring chance of the period.

2:25 in, the Wings get a power play as Folin rocks Christoffer Ehn with an elbow to the head. Toronto will take a look, but I don’t anticipate supplemental discipline on this one. Outside of the first shift on this PP, the Wings look like crap. Fortunately the post-kill counterattack for the Habs is also killed.

Adam Erne makes a blind backhanded pass from the low corner to the middle of the Habs’ zone and creates a 3-on-2 rush for the Habs that Bernier has to stop. This is all not too long after a Bowey turnover leads to a Tatar chance. Fortunately we fight back with a good chance by Justin Abdelkader.

The Wings get caught on a long shift and barely manage to get out of it. Meanwhile, Montreal barely manages to escape Detroit’s barely managing to escape because one of their players uses a broken stick to play the puck and doesn’t get called. This leads to a rush that Mantha gets a chance on.

From here things get even MORE grindy, as the Wings back off chances and the Habs put on a little extra push trying to tie it up. The Wings aren’t completely backing off and are actively looking for counterattack opportunities, but you can see that nobody wants to be the guy who gets caught jumping up where he shouldn’t.

After two consecutive icings by the Wings, Helm gets a breakaway and it ends Helmishly.

The Habs pull price with two minutes remaining. The Wings ice it 30 seconds later, but get one player changed as Hronek has to go to the room early. He gets rocked by a big check and appears to catch his own visor to the bridge of his nose. Habs control the draw and fire some dangerous chances from the points, but Luke Glendening gets a puck along the boards thanks to some good work by Filppula and fires it down ice into the empty net to make it 4-2 Detroit.

Mantha finishes the game in the box after throwing the puck from behind his own blue line over the glass behind the Montreal net. lol

The Score: 4-2 Wings
The Shots: 35-34 Montreal
Standout Players: Luke Glendening, Jonathan Bernier
The Period all Summed up: Bent not broken.

Final Thoughts

Taro Hirose is really good at leading skaters with his passes.

The line I was jokingly calling the fourth in this game was the second most-prolifically used line of the night for Jeff Blashill. Helm-de la Rose-Abdelkader all had more TOI than non-BLM forwards other than Andreas Athanasiou. Honestly, I think this was an intentional strategy by Blashill to use a heavy-grinding line to physically wear down a Canadiens team that played the night before and it worked. That line controlled play very well and created a good number of chances for themselves.

The final answer to “how long can the Wings keep Tatar from scoring” turned out to be “all night.”  He did get an assist, but it wasn’t his goal.

This team is going to make mistakes and blow leads. There were plenty of chances for that to happen in the third period in this game. I don’t know if it’s early season drunkenness or if something really is that different, but that tying goal did not feel as inevitable as it has in years past.

Wings take on Toronto next on Saturday. The Leafs got beaten up by the Lightning tonight.