penguins habs iThe Canadien scored two goals on the game’s first three shots and it proved enough as they defeated the Penguins 4-1 Saturday night in Pittsburgh. The win, the Canadiens sixth in a row, vaulted the Habs past both the Penguins and the Islanders into first place in the Eastern Conference. Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais scored in the game’s first seven minutes to give the Habs their 2-0 lead. After Pittsburgh newcomer David Perron scored to narrow the score to 2-1, Tom Gilbert and Alexei Emelin finished it off. In the end the Canadiens outshot the Penguins 33-31. On SportsNet the three stars were Gilbert, Alexei Emelin and Carey Price.

Adding It Up –

Bought In – This was, according to Michel Therrien, the “right way” to play the game. Nobody in the Canadiens dressing room is arguing. The effort was total, top to bottom, against a team that is considered only of four or five teams capable of winning a Stanley Cup. Sidney Crosby was limited to three shots; Evgeni Malkin with 3. David Perron had six, but outside of the goal, only one was memorable. The shutdown, especially in the neutral zone was total.

Corsi Failure – It was clear to even the most rabid of Penguins fans or Canadiens haters the territorial dominance of the Canadiens, especially in the second and third periods. Yet, the Corsi numbers, which normally reflect puck possession, showed the Penguins ahead 63-52. The statistical crowd is constantly working to fine a way to hone it but in this case the stat told a lie.

His Kind Of Game Tomas Plekanec seems to thrive on this kind of hockey.    He wasn’t mentioned in the three stars but he should have been. His main job was the look after Sidney Crosby which he obviously handled very well indeed. Along with an impeccable night defensively, his forechecking produced eight shots including a team high five on-goal. He set up David Desharnais for what turned out to be the winning goal. Desharnais had four shots. In this case, the Corsi numbers did tell a story. The Plekanec line was the only one on the plus side with Plekanec at plus-9 (19 offensive plays for vs. 10 against)

No Controversy Tom Gilbert and Alexei Emelin have has their share of haters this season. This was a special night for the pair who, with the ascension of Nathan Beaulieu, find themselves at the bottom end of defense pecking order. All of the defense played well but Gilbert/Emelin shone. Gilbert with a goal and assist and on the ice for all four Canadiens goals. Emelin with the clinching goal, plus-3 and a team leading 5 hits, four blocked shots and a takeaway.

Also Worth Mentioning -…… Another plus-night for Max Pacioretty.  On this night plus-2 with a goal and assist.  Over his last ten games he has 4 goals, 7 assists and is plus-10.  The ‘plus’ numbers only include his 5-on-5 play.  Pacioretty also is an important penalty killer. …Out of habit I suppose, Carey Price was named third star.  He was businesslike in this game, but hardly spectacular in stopping 30 of 31 shots. …..Notable that there were seven shots from fourth liners Michael Bournival  (4) and Sven Andrighetto (3).  They each were given 11 minutes of ice time. …...Lars Eller won 11 of 14 faceoffs (79%).  …..And something should be said about the play of David Desharnais, who seems to be a better player on the wing.  As a centreman he was constantly looking to make the perfect play to Pacioretty.  Playing with Plekanec he seems less reluctant to let a shot go as his four shots in this game indicate.
penguins habs IIThe Numbers Game
– This is the first time the Canadiens have won five in a row on their annual holiday road in 25 years, dating back to 1988-89 when they beat Boston, LA, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.……The Canadiens have won six in a row and eight of their last nine. …..In his last nine starts Carey Price has allowed 12 goals, has an 8-1-0 record with a 1.33GAA and a .953 save percentage. ….The Habs are 16-0-0 when they score first and 18-1 when they lead going into the third period.  …..They are now 17-4-1 vs. Eastern Conference teams.

Up Next – The Canadiens are home for the next week. The play only two games, albeit tough ones, over the next ten days. Tampa Bay will be at the Bell Centre on Tuesday and they have a re-match against Pittsburgh next Saturday.