The Canadiens offense finally came to life under new head coach Randy Cunneyworth who had to wait until his fifth game behind the bench to get his first win as an NHL head coach.  The Canadiens scored on three of their first four  shots.   It was the first time this season the Canadiens managed six goals in a game, the first time in twenty-eight games, they’d scored as many as five goals.   Six different players scored and seven players led by Raphael Diaz three first period assists, had multi point nights.

Adding It Up –

 Motivated – After being sent to the  Winnipeg press box for an unfathomable reason, Randy Cunneyworth rewarded Lars Eller with the job of replacing David Desharnais as centre for Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole replacing David Desharnais who was shifted to a third line with Louis Leblanc and Michael Cammalleri.   Eller was the Canadiens best forward.  He scored the shorthand goal, he logged more minutes (19:17) than any other Canadiens forward; and team leading minutes in both power play and penalty killing.  In other words he had a Tomas Plekanec-type game including 56% in the faceoff circle and because he was performing so well, took some of the special teams pressure off Plekanec.

What You Get – Everything you need to know about P.K. Subban’s season took place in one 9 second sequence five minutes into the second period.  Subban was soft handling a puck against Spezza at his own blueline and Carey Price had to deal with a dangerous 2-on-1.  Erik Cole then brought the puck back up passing to Subban for the Canadiens fifth goal.  Subban also could be blamed for the Senators second goal when Spezza again got behind him at the goalmouth.  But at the end of the night he had a goal, assist and was plus-1.  With P.K., that’s the way it is.  At least at this point in his career.

Feeling Better?   Perhaps four days off allowed Michael Cammalleri to heal some injuries.  He definitely was more physically involved in the game than we’ve seen this month.   Playing with Desharnais and Louis Leblanc he had four shots on goal, scored the game winner on a setup from Leblanc (his first goal in ten games)  and then set up Leblanc for his second goal of the season. Plus-2 on the night.

For the Defense – Raphael Diaz drew assists on the first three Canadiens goals, his first three point game in the NHL.  He was plus 3 with three blocked shots playing mostly with Hal Gill.  Alexei Emelin was solid, at even strength backing up the sometimes defensively-challenged Tomas Kaberle.  Among his four hits were two solid checks on Ottawa tough-guy Zenon Konopka.  What caught my eye was the use of Emelin and Diaz as the second power play unit behind Kaberle/Subban.  Among the defensemen only Gorges and Subban put in more time-on-ice than Emelin’s 20:14.

Worth Mentioning –  Tomas Plekanec centred Kostitsyn and Moen.  Plekanec was very good.  A goal and an assist;  four shots on goal; three takeaways; 57% in the faceoff circle (12/9).   ……….Erik Cole did what he’s been doing mostly for the last thirty games; that is rack up the scoring chances.  He had six of them and scored his 14th goal. …… Carey Price was solid again, especially in dealing with 13 first period shots and again early in the third period when the Senators showed signs of waking up again.  In some circles he was the game’s first star.  He was good, but not that good.   …….And what about Louis Leblanc?  Despite the fact he’s only 170 pounds he was very much involved in the physical side again and seemed comfortable playing with Desharnais, and especially Cammalleri.  I think we can safely assume that he’ll be going back to Hamilton if/when the Canadiens ever get healthy, but given a little more size, he’s going to be a contributor.

Close Quarters The Canadiens remain in twelfth place in the Eastern Conference but just four points behind the Senators who hold down the 8th and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.  Ottawa and Montreal have each played 37 games.  The Canadiens are just two points ahead of Tampa who will be their next opponent in the six game road trip.  The Lightning have played only 35 games.

The Schedule – In Tampa Thursday (Dec.29) 7:30pm; at Florida New Year’s Eve at 7.00pm.  Home to Winnipeg January 4th, the first of three in a row at the Bell Centre.