Ben Bishop faced 36 shots and stopped 35 of them to give his Dallas Stars their best chance at a win over the visiting Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
Where have we seen this movie before? Oh right, just about every time the 32-year-old goaltender has played against Montreal.
Bishop came into the game with a 12-4-4 lifetime record against the Canadiens — sporting a 1.79 goals-against average in his 18 appearances — and delivering another tremendous performance behind his team was going to be pivotal, considering they were coming off a 2-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Denver a night previous and that the Stars had only managed to score more than two goals in just four of their 15 games coming into this one.
They were facing a rested Canadiens side that had a remarkable come-from-behind victory against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday, a Canadiens team that came into the game averaging the third-most goals in the NHL. Bishop set the tone with remarkable saves on Nick Cousins and Jordan Weal in the opening minutes of the first period, and he shut the door the rest of the way after former Canadien Alex Radulov opened the scoring in the 16th minute of the game.
Denis Gurianov added two goals—one of them on a penalty shot—and Miro Heiskanen scored an empty-netter to help deliver a 4-1 win.
THE BIG TAKEAWAY
Montreal came into the game with the 10th-best power play in the league and drew five opportunities against the Stars.
Had the Canadiens been able to create anything to take advantage of those opportunities, we might be talking about a different outcome in the game.
Granted Montreal allowed two power-play goals against. Including Radulov’s opening marker, which came as a result of a cleanly won faceoff by Tyler Seguin and a perfectly timed pick from Jamie Benn.
But that goal—and the one Gurianov scored in the 11th minute of the third period—was more a function of smart work on the power play from the Stars than it was a continuation of the penalty-killing woes that plagued the Canadiens through their first 11 games.
Montreal had cleaned up that part of the game over its last three contests after coach Claude Julien said he’d address it following a 4-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 24. They had done so by taking only five penalties total against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Arizona Coyotes and Golden Knights, and they had limited the scoring opportunities considerably once they were forced to kill penalties.
As for the Canadiens’ power play—which ranked 30th in the league and operated at just 13.2 per cent last season—it hadn’t really cost them anything to date. Until this game.
Montreal’s power play was totally out of sorts in this game. The players couldn’t string two passes together coming up the ice. And when they finally were able to break into the offensive zone, they couldn’t find any cohesion.
They had just five shots on their five opportunities, and no one was in front of the net to collect the rebounds that were generated.
This was a part of the game the Canadiens had to win. It was a perfect opportunity (five of them actually) to suck the life out of American Airlines Arena and the energy out of a tired Stars team. They blew it.
• Credit the Stars for generating 40 shots and 77 shot attempts after playing what several of them said was their best game of the season on Friday in Denver.
But this was an altogether sloppy performance from the Canadiens, who appeared like a completely different team than the one that had just strung together three consecutive wins.
"I find we’ve been a lot better defensively lately, even if we gave up too many goals in Vegas," head coach Claude Julien said prior to puck drop in Dallas. "I think from that side of it the chances to score for the opposition are diminishing over the last little while. It’s another positive aspect of our game."
But that part of it was a big negative on this night.
• Credit the Stars once again, this time for being one game away from getting to .500 and turning around a horror-show 1-7-1 start to the season. They have now won six of their last seven games. This one has no caveat to it.
HE SAID IT BEST
"We’ve had a good couple of games, but it can go from a good road trip to a great road trip, and that’s our goal for tonight is to make it a great one and go home feeling good about ourselves," said Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher before the game.
The Canadiens put together two big wins in Arizona and Vegas in back-to-back games Wednesday and Thursday, which made this tough road trip through two time zones a success. But they can’t be feeling great about themselves after a frustrating night in Dallas.
The Canadiens return home to Montreal to begin preparing for their first game against the Boston Bruins, which will take place at the Bell Centre on Tuesday.