Call of the Wilde: New York Islanders shade Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in hard-fought overtime

Only the Senators and two games against the Red Wings remain on the schedule, after the Canadiens travelled to New York to face the Islanders Thursday night.

It was a must win for the Isles’ playoff hopes, but they had a hard time putting the Montreal Canadiens away. The Islanders needed overtime to shade the Canadiens 3-2.

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It was a Samuel Montembeault kind of night. He is one of the top goaltenders in the entire NHL in stolen games. Montembeault was in a thieving kind of mood again as the Canadiens were vastly outshot by the Islanders.

Montreal was able to muster only 15 shots while the Islanders had 34. Montembeault had to make many quality saves.

Many don’t believe the Canadiens have their goaltending set for the future. The reason is a lack of pedigree, because neither of the Canadiens’ goalies are highly rated like Carey Price was drafted fifth overall. Montembeault was a waiver wire pick-up from Florida, and Cayden Primeau was a seventh round pick.

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However, watch the games closely and consider the superior metrics for both. It will tell you the Canadiens rebuild is complete in the net. The Canadiens also have a third goalie coming in Jacob Fowler who is progressing to be a sure-fire NHLer.

Montembeault stood out most for Montreal as offensively the Canadiens had a hard time creating chances. The top moment in the first two periods was their only goal. Jordan Harris took a point shot that would have been an easy save, except Juraj Slafkovsky was doing his Giant-Man impersonation.

Slafkovsky parked his big frame in front of the net, then he engaged the defender physically to distract him, then stood right in front of the goalie who had no vision of the shot. Slafkovsky didn’t get a point on the goal, but it was all his work that made the difference.

In the third period, on only their 12th shot, Cole Caufield slid one home on more good work from Slafkovsky, though again, he did not get an assist. Caufield now has 25 goals on the season which is just one shy of his career high set last season.

Mike Matheson did get a helper on the Caufield goal for his 50th assist of the season. Remarkably, Matheson is only the sixth defenceman to hit that number for Montreal. That’s heady company for a 115-year-old franchise.

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The Islanders were desperate in this one. They absolutely had to have a result for their playoff chances. The Canadiens stayed close like they have all season long. They have only rarely been blown out this season.

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It’s a credit to their work ethic and the buy-in the head coach has created in the room. Save the goats for when they disappoint.

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The Lane Hutson watch has begun. Hutson has concluded his second season of college hockey after Boston University lost a heartbreaker to Denver in the national semi-finals in Saint Paul, Minn.

Hutson finishes with 49 points this season, which was almost a replica of his freshman season when he counted 48 points. The Terriers were better for much of the contest, but had to kill eight minutes’ worth of penalties, while not earning a power play themselves.

The Pioneers won 2-1 in overtime to move on to the final where they will take on the winner of the other semi-final between Boston College and Michigan.

Hutson is now free to sign with the Canadiens, and the expectation is that he will Friday or Saturday, though there is no guarantee. General Manager Kent Hughes was at the game in Minnesota which could be significant, though he does also like to watch and support his son when he’s in the big game.

If Hutson signs, he would then have the opportunity to play the last two games on Monday and Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings.

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If he plays those games, it would engage his entry-level contract’s first season. This is the cookie that collegians are given at the end of their seasons to ensure that they are signed in good order. NHL GMs would rather not engage year one of a contract for only two games, but they definitely need to get that business sorted before it ever gets complicated.

Luke Tuch is also available for the Canadiens to sign. There is less clarity on what the organization plans for the Terriers forward. Tuch would be a useful player for the organization. He’s big and fast, and the club needs forwards in both Montreal and Laval.

Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on after each Canadiens game.

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