About Last Night: Habs burn the midnight Oil in late evening 4-3 win

Josh Anderson scored two goals in the win for the Canadiens.

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For a second straight game, the Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers made it worth our while to stay up late. The Habs split the two-game Mountain Time Zone series with a hard-fought 4-3 victory Wednesday night at Rogers Place.

Like Monday night’s heavyweight tilt, Wednesday’s rematch was not for the faint of heart. With two men already down to injury—Carey Price and Jujhar Khaira—game two started with another casualty, this time Oiler forward Zack Kassian, who finished his check on Shea Weber but left the ice putting little pressure on his left leg. The guy who gave Price his concussion on Monday, Alex Chiasson, had to answer the bell early, dropping the gloves with Corey Perry. It looked like another scoreless opening frame was about to enter the books when Jesperi Kotkaniemi demonstrated the patience of Job with the puck, eventually finding a streaking Artturi Lehkonen, who lifted a backhand past Mike Smith to give the Habs a 1-0 advantage with 29 seconds remaining in the first. It was a hard hitting affair from the get-go: 43 hits between the two teams heading into period two.

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Connor McDavid, freed from his scoring drought against the Habs, tied the game minutes into the second, taking an outlet pass from Caleb Jones all the way to the promised land. The Oilers had no time to bask in the momentum, as Josh Anderson on the ensuing draw showed off his own swift skating by beating Adam Larsson outside to inside and scoring on Smith to regain a one goal advantage for his team. The game continued to be physical: Shea Weber and Leon Draisaitl were joined at the hip, with the embattled captain getting the upper hand more often than not. The physical battle meant Weber and Ben Chiarot were in their elements, while the defence as a whole displayed a newfound equilibrium with the responsible Jon Merrill in the fold. The Habs entered the dressing room after two periods up 2-1.

The Canadiens clamoured for a two-goal lead all of Monday and never got it. This time around, Tyler Toffoli made it 3-1 with a sorely needed powerplay marker off a Josh Archibald giveaway a little over eight minutes into the third period. The goal snapped a 1-for-23 drought with the man-advantage. Speaking of penalties, both goalies Allen and Smith took separate, unrelated minors for tripping last night. When was the last time that happened to two goalies in a game?

With a little under 5 minutes remaining, Anderson scored his second of the game off a ferocious backhand to give the Habs a 4-1 cushion. Oiler coach Dave Tippett challenged that Smith was interfered by Tomas Tatar, but it seemed more a hail mary. The goal stood, and the Canadiens received a powerplay that was almost immediately negated by a Jonathan Drouin high-stick double minor. The potent Oilers offence went to work: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored with the man-advantage amid a furious rush around Allen to make it 4-2. The Oilers continued pressing and Jesse Puljujarvi redirected a McDavid point shot to reduce Montreal’s lead to one. It was a white knuckle moment for Habs fans, who saw the team’s lead nearly evaporate in a flash. The final minute was equally tense, with the Habs needing a couple of selfless shot blocks to ensure the 4-3 win.

The victory gives the Habs an eight-point lead in the North Division over the Calgary Flames, who they’ll face on Friday and Saturday. Calgary’s slim playoff hopes hang in the balance. The Habs Liveblog slumber party was active for a school night. Clearly the Habs trump any work or school responsibilities. Here are the top comments:

3. “The Canadiens made it worth it for me to go to work on 4 hours sleep. The team came to play, and they even withheld a final push from the best player in the league. Allen deserved the win, with extra run support tonight” -Ryan Katz
2. “Watching the Habs vs Oilers this season almost makes up for not being able to watch Habs vs Bruins. Good, fast, hard hockey from 2 teams that don’t like each other!!” -Bob Taylor
1. “McDavid’s gf is from the city where I live. He comes here occasionally and is so good with the kids. It’s hard to dislike this guy. What an incredible hockey player.” -Marc Taillefer

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