In the Habs Room: 'I heard it hit the crossbar,' Nick Suzuki says of last-minute shot

Canadiens rookie comes close to sending Game 1 against Flyers into OT with a shot heard loud and clear in Toronto and on TVs in Montreal.

TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 12: Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens stops a shot in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 12, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775544552


That’s the sound of how close the Canadiens came to sending Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers into overtime Wednesday night. With no fans in the stands, the ping could be heard loud and clear inside Scotiabank Arena.

With 26.4 seconds left on the clock, Nick Suzuki fired a shot off the crossbar with the puck then flying into the empty seats.

Final score: Flyers 2, Canadiens 1.

“The last shot, I didn’t really see it,” Suzuki said after the game. “I heard it hit the crossbar.”

So did Canadiens fans who were watching on TV in Montreal.

The way this game started, it looked like the Canadiens might not have a chance against the Flyers, who outshot them 11-5 in the first period and were leading 1-0 on a power-play goal by Ivan Provorov.

But the Canadiens’ found their legs in the second period and tied the game when captain Shea Weber scored a power-play goal at the 14:38 mark. But only 16 seconds later, Joel Farabee scored what proved to be the winning goal for the Flyers.

The Canadiens went 0-for-12 on the power play during their qualifying-round victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, so Weber’s goal could provide an important confidence boost for the team going forward.

“That is big, obviously, for the power play,” said Weber, who now has a team-leading three goals and five points in the five postseason games. “Hopefully that can build some momentum and we’ve been so good five-on-five already that we’d like to keep that up.

“But I think you always talk about big shifts after scoring a goal, last minute of a period, first minute of a period,” Weber added about Farabee’s goal. “Those are kind of the key moments. Definitely a little bit of a letdown there, but I still thought we responded well and even after that I still thought we had a pretty good second period, minus that.”

Midway through the third period, Canadiens coach Claude Julien juggled his lines, moving Max Domi up from the fourth-line centre role he played against the Penguins, putting him at right wing on a line with Jesperi Kotkaniemi at centre and Jonathan Drouin on left wing. The move almost paid off with less than two minutes left when Domi just missed setting up Kotkaniemi from behind the net for a great scoring chance in the slot. It looked like Kotkaniemi might not have been ready for the pass.

For Canadiens fans who were shaking their heads watching Domi play on the fourth line, their reaction to the move was probably: About time!

That’s something else for Julien to think about before Game 2.

“I don’t really see myself as the No. 1 guy,” Suzuki said when asked about taking Danault’s spot. “We’re real deep at centre. All four of us have been playing really well. All four lines are generating so, whatever, it doesn’t really matter to us where we’re seeded in the lineup. Just we got to do our jobs as centres and we’ve been doing a good job. We started off with really good centres in Pittsburgh and now with Philly they got a lot of talent down the middle, too, so we got to do our job there.

“I think we can generate a ton as a group,” Suzuki added. “We’ve shown that we can play against the top teams in the league and this team is definitely one of them. It’s a good step. We need to get the next win, though.”

When Julien was asked what the big difference was between the two teams in Game 1, he said: “Probably breaks. Honestly, when I say breaks, we hit the post at the end and we score on that we’re going into overtime here.”

Suzuki can probably still that ping! ringing in his ears.

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“There’s reasons, obviously, I can’t really talk about,” Julien said when asked about moving Domi up and taking Joel Armia off the line with Kotkaniemi and Drouin. “But (Domi’s) a guy that we know we can move up at any time. He gives us depth when we’ve got him on the fourth-line centre whenever I can use four lines. But, at the same time, he’s a guy that you can move around.”

It will be interesting to see if Julien sticks with the new line when the Canadiens face the Flyers in Game 2 Friday afternoon (3 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).

“The first period was a tough period for us,” Julien said. “Whether it was because we hadn’t played in the last four or five days or whether we were a little nervous and trying to feel our way through. But I thought from the second period on we really started playing our game and I think we built some confidence in knowing that we can play with these guys. So that’s the way I feel right now is that they’re an extremely good team. I like to think that our team right now is a good enough team to play with these guys.”

As for Suzuki, the 21-year-old rookie continues to get better and has now taken Phillip Danault’s spot on the No. 1 line between Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher. While Gallagher had a team-leading seven shots in Game 1, he has yet to score a goal in the five playoff games and neither has Tatar, who had no shots against the Flyers. Gallagher and Danault tied for the team lead during the regular season with 22 goals each and obviously had a comfort level playing with Danault over the past two seasons.

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