Each Monday, we’ll wrap up three of the biggest stories from the weekend and how they’ll play into the coming week.
Habs Hit a Buzzer-beater
The weekend’s most entertaining matchup was Saturday night’s contest between the Senators and Canadiens in Montreal, though you wouldn’t know it if you’d turned the game off once Ottawa had locked up the win.
And that win really did seem locked up, with Ottawa holding a 4-1 lead with four minutes to play in regulation. Fans like to get dramatic and talk about teams pulling off unheard-of comebacks, but in this case it’s not hyperbole: No team in the history of the league had ever won a game in which it had trailed by three with less than five minutes to play.
Until Saturday night, that is, when the Canadiens stormed back for a win that was both unprecedented and controversial. Lars Eller closed the gap to 4-2 with under four minutes left, and Brian Gionta made it 4-3 with two remaining. A late penalty to Ottawa’s Kyle Turris sent Montreal to the power play and set up a furious final minute. After a frantic scramble in front of Sens goalie Robin Lehner, P.K. Subban somehow had the presence of mind to find an open David Desharnais with a pass with time about to expire, and the center buried it with just 0.3 seconds left on the clock.
The Senators were furious with the goal, arguing that Lehner had been bumped out of position seconds earlier. They weren’t any happier with Francis Bouillon’s overtime game winner, which came on another scramble after Lehner thought he’d frozen the puck. Referee Eric Furlatt was in good position and ruled that the puck had never been covered, but the Senators protested wildly, with Bobby Ryan having to be restrained from going after the officials.
From Ottawa’s perspective, the loss can only be described as crushing. While the Senators can take some consolation in picking up a loser point, they need every win they can get if they’re going to have any hope of making a playoff push. They took yet another loss Sunday, this time falling 3-1 to the Avalanche, and now sit seven points back of a wild-card spot with four teams to pass. They’re basically done.
For Montreal, the crazy finish partially overshadowed the return of Carey Price, who played for the first time since the Olympics after recovering from a leg injury. (Backup Dustin Tokarski got the start Sunday night in Buffalo, and earned his first career shootout in a 2-0 win.) With their star goaltender healthy again and a seven-point cushion in the wild-card race, the Habs are now all but assured of a playoff spot.