This one turned out to be closer than it should have been. With the score 3-0 Lars Eller took a careless high sticking penalty with 3:38 remaining. The Islanders scored when Matt Moulson batted the puck out of midair to make it 3-1. 1:48 later, former Hab Mark Streit scored to make it a one-goal game. Over the long haul it was a very solid road performance by the Canadiens which started with Max Pacioretty scoring on the first shot of the game.
Unbelievably, the Canadiens with the two points vaulted over Tampa Bay, Buffalo and the Islanders into 11th place in the Eastern Conference. Hope, faint as it is, springs eternal. Reality is, they’re still nine points behind Toronto who fell to eighth place after losing to Philadelphia.
Adding It Up –
…..Game Changer – With the score 1-0 Carey Price made six ‘five star’ saves right off the top of the second period, four of them with David Desharnais in the penalty box. He was particulary spectacular on Parenteau and Moulson on the power play and then on Bailey just after the power play expired. Two things happened after the sequence. The Islanders appeared to sag and the Canadiens’ confidence appeared to soar. Price was named second star. Chalk this one up as one of those games where the goaltender won it almost singlehandedly
….Carrying The Mail – Hard to argue with a hattrick and ten shots on goal out of 16 attempts (4 were blocked and 2 missed) and six scoring chances. In the first period, the Canadiens entire offense was Max Pacioretty. His goal was a hard wrister coming off the right side that startled Nabokov. The second came was a onetimer from the slot on a setup from Desharnais. The third goal was an empty-net gimme with 1/10th of a second remaining on the clock. In his last seven games Pacioretty has 5 goals and 2 assists.
….Reset the Countdown – The Scott Gomez goalscoring drought lasted a year and four days and 53 games. And for fifty eight minutes of this game Gomez was one of the Canadiens hardest working forwards. He made plays to Josh Gorges and Andrei Kostitsyn that could have put the game out of reach early in the third period. Later in the third, on the Canadiens only power play of the night, he scored what turned out to be the game winner by drilling a deflected pass off the post and into the net to give the Canadiens a 3-0 lead. Only the black mark on his game came with just under two minutes left when he failed to engage Mark Streit inside the Canadiens line leading to the goal that made it 3-2.
………The Supporting Cast – Erik Cole came into the game without a point in the five games since the All-Star break and it looked like the streak was going to be extended early in the game. But he got it together and in the final two periods he was the second most dominant offensive force in the game. Along with the assist on the first goal he had five shots on goal.
…….Unsung & Underrated – Mathieu Darche is on a roll and the coach is riding it for all it’s worth. Playing mostly with Plekanec and Moen, Darche turned in a very effective two way game that included penalty killing duties up front with Plekanec. In the end he logged more ice time (19:58) than any other Canadiens forward.
Also Worth Noting – ….There was no ‘sitting on the lead’ this night. The Canadiens’ forechecking in the third period forced the Islanders back in their own zone, a departure from what we’d become used to. It wasn’t until Gomez made it 3-0 that the Canadiens started to drop back and bottle up the neutral zone. …….For a guy that weighs only 175 pounds, Louis Leblanc was certainly throwing his weight around. He showed no hesitation to go go to war against the big guys, leading the Canadiens with four hits in his 12 minutes of ice time. . …..Interesting use of Rene Bourque in the first period. He was doubleshifted playing with Eller and Leblanc and then with Gomez and Kostitsyn. With all of that ice time he was around the Islanders net a lot, taking a total of eight shots, although five of them were blocked. ……At this stage of his hockey career, I like P.K. Subban more when I admire him for a good defensive place in his own end and not some wild rush into the opposition end. He’s been doing more of the former the last few games and his game has a soundness that’s been missing for most of the year. He was plus-2 on the night. ……Tomas Plekanec wound up plus-1 while spending most of his time on the ice with the Taveres lined. ‘Nuff said? …..David Desharnais was the wheelman on a line that generated 26 shots – 15 on goal. ……Alexei Emelin divided his time almost equally between playing to the right of Diaz and the left side alongside Kaberle. He seems to be more effective with Kaberle.
Ahead – The Leafs in Toronto Saturday night. Another ‘four pointer’. Looking to win their fourth in a row, something they’ve accomplished once this season between Oct. 26 and November 4th. Truth be told, they hadn’t won three in a row since that streak.