hurricanes march 7The Canadiens survived a 21 shot second period Hurricanes barrage and then scored two unanswered goals in the third period to defeat Carolina 4-2 Thursday night in Raleigh.  Carey Price stopped 42 of the 44 directed his way including Eric Staal’s second period penalty shot.  Lars Eller broke a 2-2 tie at 6:09 of the third period and P.K. Subban provided the insurance on a power play.  Tomas Plekanec and Josh Gorges scored in the first period.  Drayson Bowman and Jordan Staal scored in the second period for the Hurricanes.  Linemates Brandon Prust and Lars Eller each had a goal and two assists.  Final shots on goal were 44-28 in favour of Carolina.

The Canadiens move on to play TampaBay Saturday night.

The Nitty Gritty –

Almost Shakespearean – It was a drama in three acts.  Act 1 in which the Canadiens establish themselves and take a 2-0 lead.  Act II – The villains take over and tie the game.  Act III.  In which the heroes fend off adversity and win the night.  Bad analogy?  OK, I can accept that.  The Canadiens beat a very good Carolina team, one that is going to be heard from a lot between now and the end of the season.

Back in Form – Carey Price went into the game in a foul mood after giving up 12 goals in his previous two games.  His teammates made it easy for him through the first ten minutes when he dealt with only four shots and they were ahead 2-0.  Then everyone fell apart except Carey.  Over the next 30 minutes the Hurricanes forechecked them to a standstill; outshot them 31-12 and scored twice to tie the game.  22 of the 31 shots were solid scoring chances.

Game Over?  Apparently the Habs thought so, midway through the first period after they took that 2-0 lead.  From that point on, the game had the appearance of a 30 minute Canadiens penalty kill with the Hurricanes in their end 75 percent of the time.  Carolina launched 37 shots toward Price in the second period.  Only 9 at the Carolina end.

Not Enough – A concerned Kirk Muller mentioned during the second intermission that the Hurricanes with their dominance had left “something on the table”, meaning he felt his team played well enough ot take the lead.

20/20 Hindsight – Muller was right.  Somehow the Canadiens reached back but not before Brian Gionta took an uncharacteristic roughing penalty in the first minute of the third period that forced the Canadiens back on their heels.  Carolina got one shot with the extra man.

Energy Boost –  It’s seldom that teams who so completely lose their competitive edge early in a game find a way back.  The Canadiens seem to have the personality that lets them do it.  After killing off the penalty the ice tilted back their way.

Taking It Back  – In the fourth minute of the third Brandon Prust got the puck in to Josh Gorges who then sent a perfect pass over to Lars Eller to break the 2-2 tie.   Four minutes later it was Eller who did all the work on a power play, winning a battle along the boards and sending it out to Markov who quickly moved to Subban for another of those shots.  4-2.

Shut the Door – At the time of the fourth Canadiens goal, Carolina had 41 shots on Carey Price.  He was to see three more the remaining twelve minutes of the game as the Canadiens, now infamous checking game took over.

The Stars – Price without a doubt.   He can share top billing with Lars Eller/Brandon Prust and Alex Galchenyuk.  Eller and Prust combined for a goal and 2 assists each, and the line was plus-6.   Eller was on the ice for all four Canadiens goals.  The signing of Prust may be Marc Bergevin’s finest hour to date.  And Josh Gorges.  Who knew he had some Andrei Markov buried in him.  Playing 4 on 4 Gorges broke in late to settle down Prust’s pass and backhand it in for the Canadiens second goal.  He also found Eller all alone with a perfect feed for the game winner.

Where They Stand – The Canadiens reach the midway point of the short 48 game schedule in first place in the Eastern Conference, one point better than Boston who have those three in hand and two more than Pittsburgh.  Their record is a stunning 15-5-4.  They are now 9-1-3 in their last 13 games.  Even more remarkable is their 7-2-2 season road record. We keep waiting for the bubble to burst.  Is it possible, it’s not?

On to Florida – The five game road trip continues in Tampa Saturday and Sunrise on Sunday.  We’ll see Peter Budaj in one of those two games.