canadiens celebrationThe Canadiens survived a full court press from the Boston Bruins in the first and third periods to steal a 2-1 win and take over first place in the Atlantic Division Thursday night at the Bell Centre.  Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty scored second period goals to counter a first period goal by Gregory Campbell and then hung on in the third to nail down the win.  Shots on goal were 33-27 in favour of the Bruins.  The game’s three stars were Carey Price, Plekanec and Pacioretty.

Adding It Up

The Scene Set – The Canadiens were playing in their second game in 24 hours and their third in four nights.  While the Canadiens were in New Jersey winning a tough game against the Devils, the Bruins were presumably in their Montreal hotel rooms after getting a four day break in their schedule.

The Boston Game Plan – No secret.  Make use of those fresh legs to jump all over the Canadiens in the first period.  The plan worked.  Late in the period Milan Lucic caught Markov and Subban at cross purposes to the extent that Lucic had a clear path up the middle.  He dished to Gregory Campbell and it was 1-0.  The Bruins limited the Canadiens to three shots on goal and it appeared they were on their way, especially when the Bruins controlled the early second period too.

Turning Point.  At the seven minute mark of the second period the Canadiens had generated seven shots, none of them considered a scoring chance.  At 7:25 Raphael Diaz used his speed to burst out of the Canadiens end.  He got a return pass in front of the Bruins net which Tuukka Rask had to deal with.  Their first scoring chance and the game took on a new look.  Eight minutes into the game it was the Canadiens 10th shot.

Catching Fire –  Briere followed up Diaz with a shot of his own.  Galchenyuk had a chance but missed and then it was Desharnais putting one on goal and finally the payoff.  Josh Gorges slid the puck down to Plekanec who, with Gionta a distraction for Rask in front scored from the boards.  Tie game.

Emptying the Tank – Energized by the goal the Canadiens poured it on.  From the Diaz scoring chance to the end of the period they outshot the Bruins 14-4 and the pressure paid off when Diaz, having his best game of the season, was back in deep.  His backhand put Rask off balance and the rebound found Max Pacioretty in the middle slot for a backhand and the Canadiens had the lead.

Running on Fumes – The Canadiens left it all in the second period.  Hanging on doesn’t accurately describe the courageous final 20 minutes of this game.  Through the first two periods the Canadien defence blocked only five shots.  In the third period they blocked 17.  Markov blocked four,  Emelin, Subban, Murray and Diaz with two each.  Statistics can sometime tell a false story.  Not this time.  The Bruins attempted 38 shots to the Canadiens only 10.

Carey –   What the Canadiens defence didn’t block, Carey Price took care of.  His pure athleticism save three goals.  The defence gave him good looks on most of the rest.  17 saves in a period that was spent almost entirely in the Canadiens end.  We’re becoming very accustomed to this stuff.   2-1 final score.

Mighty Mouse – Brendan Gallagher took on 6’9” Zdeno Chara in the corner in the first period with positive results and then in the third period out-jousted him in the goalmouth during one of the rare excursions into the Bruins end.  Gallagher wound up leading the Canadiens with 4 shots on goal.

Hot Hand – Max Pacioretty’s goal was his eleventh of the season.  Nine of them have come in a home ice five-game scoring streak.  This one, like so many of them, was a pure goalscorer’s goal.  Quick trigger off a backhand and top shelf.  That’s nine goals over the last nine games for him.

The Boychuk Affair – Pacioretty was handed a boarding minor when he hit Bruins defenceman Johnny Boychuk early in the first period.  Boychuk left on a stretcher after a twenty minute delay.  Post game unofficial reports indicate he suffered back spasms.

Worth Mentioning – ……Did I mention the Canadiens are in first place in the Atlantic Division?  I know, Boston has two games in hand but, this game was a real statement from a team that fought it out to the bitter end……….It’s fifth time in a row that a Canadiens/Bruins game was for first place in their division.  The last four times, the Canadiens have come out winners.  …I brought up Raphael Diaz earlier in the piece.  Can’t say enough about the game he played.  Fans are often down on him but in this game he wound up with an assist, three shots on goal, blocked two shots and made some very strong defensive plays in a nailbiter of a game.  …..Carey Price was first star…naturally.  His save percentage is up to in the league among goaltenders with 20 starts.  His goals against average drops to 1.95.  Can there be any more discussion about his Olympic candidacy. ….…..On November 10th the Canadiens were 5th in the Atlantic Division with an 8-8-1 record.  After a 10-1-2 run the have the division lead and are second to Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference.  I’m an optimist, but I didn’t see this one coming.

Moving On – The Canadiens get a day off tomorrow.  Am I allowed to say “Well earned day off  ”?   One more game in the “7-in-11” stretch of the schedule.  So far they’re 5-0-1.   Buffalo in town Saturday night and then two days off before they host LA on Tuesday.