About Last Night: Habs lose Slafkovsky late in defeat to Canes

Cayden Primeau made 26 saves in the 5-3 loss and Sean Monahan hit the 500-point plateau, but Montreal hasn’t won at PNC Arena since 2016.

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The Montreal Canadiens extended their multi-year losing streak in Raleigh, N.C., with a 5-3 loss against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at PNC Arena.

The Habs have not won in Raleigh since 2016. Cayden Primeau started consecutive games for the first time this season (bookending a five-day holiday break) and made 26 saves against the high-octane Canes offence. Andrei Svechnikov scored a hat trick for the winning side.

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Jordan Harris returned to the lineup after being out since Nov. 18 with a lower-body injury.

Juraj Slafkovsky left the game late in the third to visit with the concussion spotters after taking a hit by Stefan Noesen. Noesen appeared to hit the Habs forward in the head. After the game it was revealed Slafkovsky passed the concussion tests.

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It was all Canes in the first period, especially early on. Svechnikov opened the scoring on Primeau with a deflection in front.

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The Canes jumped to a 2-0 lead when Jesper Fast was left uncontested on the doorstep.

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Despite being outshot 15-7 in the opening frame, the Habs managed to claw back and tie it up. Jayden Struble threw one on net and Mitchell Stephens was there to pot the rebound to halve Carolina’s lead at 2-1.

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Then Carolina thought they regained a two-goal lead, but Habs coach Martin St. Louis successfully challenged that Jack Drury interfered with Primeau, so the goal was called back. With three seconds left in the period, and with Svechnikov in the penalty box, Mike Matheson scored on a wraparound to even things 2-2. With an assist on the goal, Sean Monahan hit the 500-point plateau for his career.

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Just 1:29 into the second period, the home team got that elusive third goal. Fast once again was in the right place, and he buried the one-timer to give the Canes a 3-2 lead.

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Michael Pezzetta missed a redirect by a hair for Montreal’s best chance in the second, but they returned to the dressing room down a goal heading into the third.

At 25 seconds in the third, Josh Anderson scored his fifth goal in five games to tie it up once again at 3-3. It was a true “powerhorse” type unassisted breakaway goal for the red-hot forward.

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Carolina regained the lead on the faceoff right after Primeau came up huge to stop Drury. Right off the draw, Svechnikov received a one-timer pass from Brett Pesce and he beat Primeau through a screen to make it 4-3 Canes.

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With around five minutes left to play, Noesen caught Slafkovsky with the aforementioned hit, and the latter’s night was over as he was sent into concussion protocol. He was given the green light afterward. Svechnikov would add an empty netter for his hat trick to end the game at 5-3.

Not unlike their recent overtime loss in Minnesota, the Canadiens got close to ending a long-standing losing streak in a particular city, but came up short. The Habs will have to wait to end their droughts in St. Paul and Raleigh.

Harris played 16:16 in his return and immediately clicked with fellow Northeastern alum Struble, according to Hockey Stat Cards.

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Primeau also attended Northeastern, and don’t let the four goals allowed fool you: he often stood tall against the very capable Carolina offence, and since his loss against Florida where his glove failed him, he’s looked the part of a real NHL backup in his last three outings.

The lack of call on the Slafkovsky hit got the Liveblog commenters riled up. At the other end, Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour expressed his dissatisfaction with the refs when he thought Struble dove on the Michael Bunting hooking call. The officiating in the NHL can be inconsistent, but are we putting too much weight on every missed call? It comes up a lot in the comments, as you might imagine.

As does the potential return of Arber Xhekaj. With Harris back there’s even more of a defensive logjam in Montreal, so it might take an injury or a dominant stretch in Laval to get him back up with the big club.

3. “It’s absurd that Xhekaj is in Laval and we are getting attacked by head hunters every game. No penalty on the ugly head hit to Slafkovsky? Arber should not have been sent down. Especially to Laval where it is pathetic. His toughness is missed, and if St. Louis is as good a mentor as we are led to believe, then bring him up and let the work begin.” -Charles Patrick

2. “I would like to see xhekaj back as a forward , I bet it would be a good move to have him as the new Gallagher , I’m pretty sure the sheriff can play up front and intimidate, and be very good at blocking the goalies view !” -Wayne Copeland

1. “Pathetic refereeing as usual, head shot is OK but trivial touch by Armia is called! Call up Xhekaj and send Barron down.” -Philip Marlowe

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