MONTREAL – Thirty-four seconds was enough time to provide a handful of lessons to the Habs about 3-on-3 overtime hockey.
Outscoring the opposition by a 50-24 margin ahead of Tuesday’s game, the Canadiens have shown a knack for finding the back of the net at one end of the ice while keeping pucks out at the other through the first month of the campaign. While that’s helped earn them a comfortable spot atop the NHL standings, it hasn’t given the Habs much of an opportunity to test out the league’s new 3-on-3 overtime format.
Following a goaltending duel that saw Mike Condon and Craig Anderson kick aside nearly every shot thrown their respective ways during the game, the Canadiens got their first taste of OT action in 2015-16 against the Sens, who already have plenty of experience with the new tie-breaker format after having gone to extra time in four of their first 11 games. While Columbus is now officially the only team in the NHL still awaiting their first look at overtime hockey this year, the Habs wouldn’t have minded spending a little more time testing out the new tie-breaker format against Ottawa.
“It’s quick. It’s tough because it’s not really something you can practice. The league has shown that so far – you lose one puck and bang, they’re gone the other way,” explained Dale Weise, who scored the Canadiens’ lone goal in the game on the power play in the second period to tie him with Max Pacioretty for the team lead with seven on the season. “There are some skilled players out there so it’s going to end pretty quick.”
Despite now having just 34 seconds of 3-on-3 overtime experience under their collective belts after seeing Kyle Turris take advantage of a turnover in the opening minute of the extra frame, the Habs still managed to learn a few things from the limited OT action they’ve seen this year.
“It’s not the same thing in a practice, but there are some things you can talk over to be ready for those plays,” shared Tomas Plekanec, who skated alongside Pacioretty and Jeff Petry in the team’s first and only shift in overtime. “There are going to be a lot of scoring chances in those five minutes and usually whoever gets the first one is going to win. As soon as you get a chance on a quick odd-man rush, it’s a huge advantage. If you execute it well, you’ll score the goal. As soon as you miss the net or miss a scoring chance, there’s a good chance there will be an odd-man rush the other way.
“It was the first time we lost, so I didn’t like it tonight,” he cracked of his feelings on the change from the previous 4-on-4 formula. “Whichever way you look at it, it’s interesting. Maybe 4-on-4 is more structured, whereas 3-on-3 is more odd-man rushes – it almost feels like summer hockey.”
While the NHL veterans on the roster may need some time to adjust to 3-on-3 hockey, it’s old hat for Condon, who spent the 2014-15 season test driving the new format with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
“I saw a lot of it last year in the AHL so it wasn’t a surprise, but it’s even faster in the NHL. Guys make really good plays,” explained the rookie netminder, who is still unbeaten in regulation in his NHL career, owning a 4-0-1 record to go with a .941 save percentage and 1.60 goals-against average. “We’ve practiced it a few times. It’s a man-on-man, puck possession type of game.
“I thought we had a lot of chances in the third. Craig Anderson played a great game and made a couple of huge saves in the third on the power play. Sometimes goalies steal games,” concluded Condon, who has stopped 127 of the 135 shots he’s faced this season. “You’re never happy when you lose, so we’ll just take the positives, take the point, and move on.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
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