florida feb 14The Canadiens came up with their second consecutive solid road effort and were rewarded with a second straight victory in extra time Thursday night at Sunrise Florida.  Rene Bourque batted in Alex Galchenyuk’s rebound at  2:10 of overtime to end a 1-0 goaltending battle between Carey Price and Jose Theodore.  Price stopped 26 shots for his first shutout of the season.  The game’s three stars were Price, Bourque and Theodore who topped 31 of 32 Canadiens shots.  The Canadiens return home to face the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday night.

Random Thinking –

Energy – No sign of letdown or fatigue coming off that all-out effort against Tampa Bay forty-eight hours earlier.  Through the first two periods the Canadiens played that swarming team hockey that we’re becoming accustomed to under Michel Therrien.   They were constantly first on the puck; their support of each other may have not been the most exciting hockey ever seen but, from a team and coaching standpoint was remarkable.

Theodore – This was only the sixth time that Jose Theodore was given a start against the Canadiens in the six and a half years since he was traded.  For good reason.  Mostly he’s been awful  against the Habs, witness his 4.62  goals against average.  On this night however, he looked like the Jose who won the Vezina and Hart Trophies in Montreal.  He was particularly good on Prust and Gionta in the first period and Bourque in the second.

Their Kind of Game – It was clear in their first shift of the game that the line of Eller/Armstrong and Moen were going to have a very good night.   And they did, at both ends of the ice.  Their job was to take care of  Florida’s number one line of Stephen Weiss, Shawn Matthias  and Tomas Fleischmann.  For the first two periods that line was  held to zero shots on goal.

Involved – Signs are there that Erik Cole is getting his game back together.  Still looking for those good scoring chances but  the physical part of his game was there for anyone who was paying attention to see.  He led the Canadiens with five hits and had two shots on goal.  He also took a big blind side hit in front of the Florida net from big Erik Gudbranson midway through the second period.  Gudbranson was penalized for iterference.

Road Weary – The air started to come out of the balloon In the final six minutes of the second period.  At that point the shots on goal were 20-8 in favour of the Canadiens.  In the game’s remaining thirty minutes the Canadiens were outshot 18-12.

The First Star – Carey Price earned his shutout during a 90 second sequence near the ten minute mark of the third period.   Desharnais, Cole, Prust along with Markov and Emelin were pinned deep in their own end for 1:20.  Price made a brilliant save on Jonathan Huberdeau followed by another on  a quick rebound shot from Drew Shore and later in the sequence  there was a pad save on Jerred Smithson.

Pulling It Out  – Price’s heroics seemed to re-energize his teammates.  Through the final twelve minutes including a tripping penalty to Josh Gorges, the Panthers managed only two serious scoring chances.

The Game Winner – Michel Therrien continues to protect his prize rookies.  Alex Galchenyuk got only sixteen shifts and 11:37 ice time.  But he trusted his 19 year old phenom in the 4-on-4 overtime. That sixteenth shift was the charm as he powered his way past a very good young defenceman Dmitry Kulikov.  Galchenyuk got the puck into the crease where Rene Bourque was waiting to bat it out of mid-air.   Game over.  What looked like a disaster after Toronto last Saturday turns into a 4 point-2 win week in Florida.

Wasted Moving Max Pacioretty to the line with Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher seemed like a good idea at the time but not if it’s bringing down his ice time to the level of third and fourth liners.   Pacioretty got 13:06 in this game, just over ten minutes even-strength.  We know he was slumping but …….

Balance  Fourteen  of the Canadiens eighteen skaters in the game registered shots; eleven of them, two or more  Bourque led the way with four.  Only Markov, Bouillon, Armstrong and Moen failed to record a shot on goal.

The Dreaded Faceoff   The Canadiens retained the services of free agent Petteri Nokelainen because he was the only member of last year’s team that consistantly won more faceoffs than he lost.  Unfortunately we haven’t seen Petteri because of his bad back.   At the end of the second period the Canadiens were operating at 34 percent in the faceoff circle .   They were better in the third thanks mostly to Plekanec who won 6 of 10 but they still  finished  at 46 percent.  In 11 of their 13 games this season  the Canadiens have lost the game faceoff battle.  As a team the Canadiens rank 28th in the league at 45.6%.  Only Edmonton and Buffalo are worse.

In the End – It was the Canadiens 8th win of the season (8-4-1).  Only Pittsburgh has more wins (9) in the Eastern Conference.  And they have jumped past Toronto again into fifth place in the East and only two points behind conference-leading New Jersey.