rangers feb 23The Canadiens smothering defence shut down the New York Rangers for the second time in four nights en route to a 3-0 win Saturday night at the Bell Centre.  The Rangers managed only five shots on goal in the first period and then the Canadiens broke loose with three unanswered goals in the second to lock up the game.   The Canadiens, who are 6-0-1 in their last seven games,  outscored the Rangers 6-1 over the two meetings this week.  The line  of Eric Cole, Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller scored the goals.  Eller and Galchenyuk also had assists.  The Canadiens outshot the Rangers 18-17.  The three stars were Galchenyuk,Eller and Cole.

Random Thoughts

Setting the Table – For the fourth game in a row the Canadiens held their opponent to the low single digits in first period shots on goal.  The Rangers had six on this night. The three previous games it was five.  For the fourth time the  last five games the Habs opponent failed to reach a game  total of 20 shots.

Credit the Defence –  In that first period, 11 Rangers shots were blocked. In the final forty minutes the defence was asked to get in the way of only seven more. Once again the  Canadiens  three  defensive pairings had an excellent night.   At home the Canadiens lead the league in blocked shots with 171 in 12 games.

On The Ken Dryden Scale Shutout Difficulty – Carey Price said it was “definitely a ‘non-working’shutout.”  Not often that a goaltender with a shutout is not rewarded with one of three stars.  Other than a brief flurry involving  Brad Richards and Anton Stralman in the second period, Price couldn’t remember having to deal with a rebound in the game.   And of course the Rangers shots on goal by period were 6-7-4.

Payback – Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh roughed up Brandon Prust along the boards in the second period’s fifth minute sending him to the dressing room for repairs.  He was not penalized on the play.  Three minutes later Max Pacioretty leveled McDonagh deep in his own end.  He was given a two minute boarding minor.  McDonagh did not return to the game.   The NHL will likely take a look at the play Monday morning.

Don’t Break Up A Good Thing  – With Brendan Gallagher returning to the lineup Erik Cole was moved down to the third line with Eller and Galchenyuk.   The line produced all three goals and were named the game’s three stars.   At the same time, Gallagher again seemed to ignite Pacioretty and Desharnais.  Gallagher was in on three 2-on-1 breaks in the first half of the game.

Thanks to the Shrink – Lars Eller credited part of his improved play this season to work with the Canadiens sports psychologist,  Sylvain  Guimond during the off season.

Quote of the Night – Michel Therrien on Brandon Prust, who was a questionable starter and wound up logging the second most minutes among Canadiens forwards despite  missing two shifts while he was being stitched up.  “Before the game he still wasn’t 100 percent.  Every game he gives everything he’s got.  I’ve got a ton of respect for that.”

Just Keep Winning –   This game was the Canadiens fifth in eight nights.  Despite that, they’ve been unable to pull away from the pack. They’ve come away with nine of a possible ten points and have a two point lead in the Eastern Conference. But in the abbreviated 48 game schedule, and with six teams within four points of  them, a two game losing streak could send them down  the list.

Looking Ahead –The Canadiens hit road. Ottawa Monday night, Toronto Wednesday then home against Pittsburgh.   After that a will-bending five road games in eight nights starting in Boston.