Takeaways: Canadiens earn valuable point to cap off positive week

Andrei Svechnikov scored the overtime winner to give the Carolina Hurricanes the win against Montreal Canadiens.

Depending on how you see it, the Montreal Canadiens either earned a valuable point in the standings or let a precious one slip away in their overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

They were less than six minutes from a regulation-time win when Trevor van Riemsdyk took a harmless looking shot that Jordie Benn kicked at and deflected by Carey Price to tie the game 1-1.

In overtime, an inadvertent turnover from Brendan Gallagher gave Andrei Svechnikov a 2-on-1 break. The Russian rookie looked to pass and deceptively fired the puck through Price for his 20th goal of the season.

A tough loss, no doubt. It put Montreal three points behind the Hurricanes in the standings.

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On the other side of it, the Canadiens temporarily extended their lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets to four points for the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference. A lead that was reduced to two points after Columbus beat the Canucks 5-0 in Vancouver later in the night.

Meanwhile, let’s get to some takeaways from the one in Carolina.

A backbreaking goal, but not one to blame on Benn

When van Riemsdyk’s shot found its way into Montreal’s net, Price was visibly distraught.

Understandably so. He stood on his head in this game, making highlight-reel save after highlight-reel save.

It started with a 10-beller on Jordan Staal in the first period. In the second, after Montreal had held Carolina to zero shots through the first 14:34 of the frame, Price scrambled to get his pads on dangerous shots from Dougie Hamilton and Nino Niederreiter.

It was in the fifth minute of the third that Price stopped Hurricanes leading scorer Sebastian Aho on a breakaway. He forced their second-leading scorer, Teuvo Teravainen, wide on another one moments later and appeared completely impenetrable until the unfortunate bounce off Benn’s leg found the mesh.

You could tell from Benn’s reaction that he was upset with himself, but he tried to do what he’s done more than any other Canadiens player this season. He came into Sunday’s game with 119 blocks, and with the game on the line–with the Canadiens clinging to a one-goal lead while getting out-shot 11-3 to that point of the third period–you couldn’t blame him for trying to stop the puck from getting to his net.

It’s worth reminding that Benn successfully did that on two other occasions in the game. Both of them came on the team’s penalty kill as part of an effort that saw the Canadiens limit the Hurricanes to just one shot on net on three power plays.

Too many missed opportunities against Carolina

During that sequence when the Canadiens held Carolina without a shot in the second period, they had multiple chances to build on the lead Paul Byron gave them with his 15th goal of the season.

Hurricanes goaltender Curtis McElhinney made some unbelievable saves. Among them: a right-pad stop on a Jesperi Kotkaniemi breakaway.

And when McElhinney wasn’t the difference, there was Hurricanes defenceman Jaccob Slavin covering an empty net and fending off a Tomas Tatar shot that appeared to be a sure goal.

It was that kind of game, much like the 2-1 loss the Canadiens suffered to Carolina back in November—when they recorded 49 shots and 93 attempts.

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Hurricanes continue torrid pace

It was in early December when Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon told the Triangle Business Journal that all he wanted to see from his team was more goals.

“I want to lose 5-4, not 2-1. If we lose 5-4, I’ll at least have fun,” he said.

They listened. Well, except for the losing part.

The two goals the Hurricanes scored against Montreal made it 130 goals since Jan. 1. Only the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning have scored as many since that point.

And Carolina’s record over that time? 26-9-2, which is only second to Tampa (27-7-2).

Taking the positives from the weekend

Sunday’s game was the third in four nights for the Canadiens, and they were travelling late on Saturday after completing their third straight win (a 7-4 conquest of the Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre).

Canadiens coach Claude Julien was disappointed with Sunday’s result, but less so with how his team handled its week.

“I think the fatigue factor caught up,” he told reporters after the game. “Midway through the second period we stopped making plays and in the third, we were just hanging on. But when you pick up seven of eight points, it’s a good week.”

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