detroitThomas Vanek completed a three point night with what proved to be the winning goal at 1115 of the third period as the Canadiens edged the Red Wings 5-4 Thursday night at the Joe Louis Arena. Twenty one seconds after Vanek scored to make it 5-3, Johan Franzen scored to make it a one-goal game and paved the way for a tense finish. Tomas Plekanec scored twice for the Canadiens, David Desharnais ad Max Pacioretty scored the others. For Detroit it was Tomas Tatar with two, Reilly Sheahan along with Franzen. Shots on goal were 30-29 in favour of the Red Wings. The three stars in Detroit were Vanek, Tatar and Plekanec.

Adding It Up –

All Aboard – In the first period the Canadiens owned the Red Wings. While shots on goal were close, the Canadiens had, by far the best scoring chances. Tomas Plekanec gave them a 2-0 lead. P.K. Subban drew first assist on both goals. On the second, Subban brilliantly faked a shot and fed the puck back Plekanec for a one timer.

Risk, Reward Again – Subban had one of those nights that only he seems to produce. As great as he was in the first period, that is not how you would desribe his second and third period. In the end, Subban was on the ice for seven of the game’s nine goals, three by the Canadiens and four from Detroit. He could be directly faulted for two of the Detroit goals. He was out of position to handle Riley Sheahan on Detroit’s first goal early in the second period and with the score 3-1 his ill-advised stretch pass was picked off by Tomas Tatar inside the Canadiens line. It was the first of consecutive goals by Tatar in a 3 minute span that tied the game and led to the big finish. The other two goals?  You do have to consider that his partner is Francis Bouillon which had something to do with it.  Subban finished the night at minus-1.  So was Bouillon.

On The Other Hand Alexei Emelin is playing his best hockey of the year. There may be cause and effect in this. It could be cause and effect. His partner is Andrei Markov, who put in another one of his superb nights. Emelin may be along for the ride but he finally looks comfortable playing as a left shot on right defense.

Doing His Thing Tomas Vanek was acquired by Marc Bergevin to pile up points. He had three of them in this game, assisting Desharnais after knocking down Niklas Kronwall and stealing the puck in the Detroit end. He drew the second assist on the Pacioretty goal to make it 4-3 and then scored the eventual game winner on his next shift on a perfect pass to the side of the net by Andrei Markov. He had another six shots on goal in this one. Eleven games with the Canadiens – 5 goals, 4 assists.

Career High – Max Pacioretty scored his 33rd goal of the season which equals his season best, set two years ago when he played on a line with Desharnais and Erik Cole. In the eight games the Pacioretty, Desharnais,Vanek line has been together, Pacioretty has three goals and three assists and the line has ten goals.

detroit IINot His Finest Night – Carey Price has had some great nights since he came back from his injury. This one won’t go into his video library. He gave up three goals on nine shots in the third periodHis defense wasn’t too helpful, but there a couple of those goals he would have prevented had he been a little sharper. It’s a win though. Earlier in the season, the Canadiens’ offense would have been incapable of overcoming four opposition goals. Price is now 8-1-0 in his last nine decisions and in the lone loss he was named the game’s first star.

Scoreboard Watching – It is now officially between the Canadiens and Tampa with the rest of the Eastern Conference trailing the Habs by at least eleven points. With home ice in a first round series between the Habs and Lightning on the line the Lightning kept pace with the Habs by edging the Islanders 3-2 in a 13 round shootout Thursday. The Canadiens have 91 points the Lightning 89 with two games in hand.

Also Worth Mentioning – …Michel Therrien seems to have finally found the balance he needs heading to the playoffs right down to Daniel Briere centering the third line with Gionta and Bourque and Lars Eller on the fourth. …..The Eller/Bournival/White line was particularly good in the first period when they got most of their ice time. Later on, knowing he was in a dogfight, Therrien shortened his bench considerably. …..Tomas Plekanec scored his 20th goal in this game.  That’s seven times he’s reached the plateau in the last eight full seasons.  And there are those who think he’s expendable.   …….A rarety, especially for the Canadiens, all nine goals in the game were scored with the teams at even strength. The Canadiens were successful on two penalty killing situations the Wings were perfect on three occasions.…..The Canadiens have now beaten every team in the Eastern Conference at least once. Prior to the game, the Red Wings had been the Canadiens twice.  …..Jarred Tinordi still has the capacity to scare me.  He was beaten badly by Johan Franzen  along the boards forcing Carey price to come up with a very big save late in the second period …….Including the record setting comeback win against Ottawa March 15th, the Canadiens have now won six of the last seven games, taking twelve of fourteen points.

Moving On – Game two of the four game road trip is scheduled for Saturday at Florida followed by the second place showdown with Tampa on Tuesday and at Ottawa next Friday. After that, only four games left in the season, three at the Bell Centre.