islanders dec 14Max Pacioretty tipped a goalmouth pass by David Desharnais past Evgeni Nabokov at 1:51 of overtime and the Canadiens skated away with a 1-0 win over the Islanders Saturday night at UniondaleNew York.  It ended a Canadiens two game losing streak.  Carey Price stopped all 21 shots for his second shutout of the season.  The Canadiens directed 25 shots at the Islanders net.  In spite of their two game losing streak, the Canadiens have posted a 10-2-1 record over their last 13 games.  The three stars were Pacioretty, Price and Nabokov.

Adding It Up –

Bad Ice – The toughest opponent was a bad sheet of ice at the Nassau Coliseum. Both teams had to deal with bouncing and hopping pucks the entire night making it difficult to put cohesive passing sequences together which in turn led to a monumental struggle.

That Said – The Islanders are the worst defensive team in the league and the best the Canadiens could muster was 23 shots on Evgeni Nabkov through a hard slogging close checking 60 minutes.  Outside of the Plekanec/Gionta/Galchenyuk line, there wasn’t much out there to write about from the Canadiens standpoint.  Dare we chalk the lack of offensive punch to a team slump or do we, and the Canadiens, start looking at team personnel issues?

Square One – It seemed to me the Canadiens went back to the drawing board after being limited to only one goal their previous two games.  They simplified their game, some would say dumbed it down, to the point where for the most part it was a game of dump and chase and crash the boards.  And at the end of the third period the Canadiens had only one goal to show for 3 full games and just under 202 minutes.

Invisible – For three full periods the line of Desharnais/Pacioretty/Briere did nothing that would cause Evgeni Nabokov to lose any sleep.  Whatever they seemed to accomplish came from the perimeter, which for two-thirds of this season has been an all-too familiar story.  And wouldn’t you know, playing 4-on-4 in the overtime, Desharnais stole the puck and skated unchecked from behind the net and fed across to Pacioretty who had reached around defenceman Aaron Ness for the tip in.  Game over.  That’s now ten goals in his last 13 games.   Four of them game-winners, including the last two.

Catching On – The opposition has figured out that it is P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov and not the forwards that has made the Canadiens power play tick.  The Canadiens had two power play opportunities in the game and in the four minutes managed only one shot on goal.  The Canadiens are now 0-for-their-last-15 with the man advantage because defenders are now aggressively taking away the time Markov and Subban were given to operate.  Time now for the Canadiens to make a change.

Had a Hunch –  Michel Therrien departed from the norm by starting Carey Price instead of Peter Budaj in the road half of a back to back set of games.  Price rewarded the team with a shutout.  He wasn’t overly tested but he had to deal with the fact that the Islanders had, by far, the most odd-man rushes in the game.  He also got help from a friendly crossbar hit by John Tavares in the first period.  Price’s save percentage is now .935, tieing him with Tuukka Rask who had a rough Saturday night in Vancouver.  Among those with 20 or more starts, only Josh Harding is better.  Price’s goals against average is back down to an even 2.00.

Another Concussion? – George Parros made it clear in October, after suffering that concussion in the Colton Orr scrap, that he had no interest in being held up as some kind of “poster boy” for the anti-fighting crowd. Two minutes into the game he was involved in another of those meaningless fights-by-appointment with Islander tough guy Eric Boulton.  Near the end of it Boulton staggered Parros with a right uppercut.  Parros was wobbled by it, ordered off the ice by the referee and never returned.  It does not look good.

Also Worth Mentioning –  …..That “illegal check to the head” call on Lars Eller early in the third period was flat out awful.  Hard and clean is the only way to describe it.  Is this what players going to have to fear every time there’s hard contact.  ……..One of these nights Brendan Gallagher is going to get a bunch.  Nobody has worked harder or been more involved over the last nine games and yet all he has to show for it is a single assist.  And it’s one goal his last fifteen games.   …..We’re getting close to the day when Alex Galchenyuk finally moves into his natural position at centre ice.  The questions of who among the top three centremen does he bump and, who can replace him on the wing.   Those are very large questions.  ……Don’t start thinking the Canadiens are out of the woods after this one.  There was not much to like about this game, including the fact that they managed one shot on goal against a team with a ledague worst 14% penalty killing record.  There is still a lot to be done to shake a slump that started after the Toronto game and has now run seven games.  …..From the game statsPacioretty had a team leading 4 shots on goal;  Tomas Plekanec took the most shots, 7 – 3 of them on goal.  Only Markov had more ice time 26:36 than Plekanec’s 23:38.  Plekanec also won 63% of his faceoffs (17 of 27).   Subban blocked 5 shots; Lars Eller led with 3 hits. ……..The Islander broadcast crew mentioned that there were 3,000 Canadiens fans at the Nassau Coliseum for the game.  At times it sounded like it.

Moving On – The Canadiens are back in Montreal for their final two home games of 2013; Sunday night against Florida and Tuesday against Phoenix.  After that it’s the annual holiday road trip.  They’ll be six away games before returning home to Ottawa on January 4th.