Alex Auld was given good a workout in his first NHL game since March 6th and his first as a member of the Canadiens. Auld stopped 30 of 31 shots helping the Canadiens to a 3-1 win over the NY Islanders at Long Island Friday night. It was the Canadiens 4th win in a row and they reach the 10 game mark of the season with a record of 7-2-1 and first place in the Eastern Conference.
(Game Video Highlights Below)
Benoit Pouliot broke a 1-1 tie at 7:19 of the third period and Travis Moen scored the clincher with 1.49 remaining. The other goal was scored by Tomas Plekanec in the first period. Matt Martin scored for the Islanders. The Canadiens were outshot 31-26 including 13-4 in the second period.
How It Went –
The First Period
Getting the Lead on the Road – At 2:42 the well-established firm of Plekanec/Cammalleri/Kostitsyn struck again. On a power play Cammalleri’s shot was blocked at the defence but the puck came right to Plekanec who went forehand to backhand and banked the puck off defenceman Radek Martinek past Dwayne Roloson.
Fast Opener– The Canadiens dominated the first ten minutes of the game. The Islanders. The shots on goal were 5-0 when the Islanders got their first shot at 3:53. Midway through the period the shots were 9-1.
Losing Momentum – Auld was forced to make an outstandings stop on John Tavares at 10.23 and the game began to change. Auld stopped all six of the Islander shots through the final ten minutes and at the end of one period it was 1-0 Canadiens.
The Second Period
More of the Same- The Islanders dominated the second period. They began to take time and space away from the Canadiens At 4:16 Matt Moulson got a clean breakaway after Benoit Pouliot fell crossing the Islander blueline. Auld stopped Moulson’s shot close in.
The Penalty Killers Shine – The Canadiens picked up minor penalties to Hal Gill and then P.K. Subban 17 seconds apart. The best the Islanders could do with a two man advantage for 1:43 was one shot.
Tieing It Up – At 16.45 the Islander’s second period effort paid off. Frans Nielsen managed to fight off the defence behind the net and got the puck out to rookie Matt Martin who fought off Plekanec to score his first NHL goal.
Fight Night – With four seconds remaining in the period Matt Martin roughed up Kostitsyn along the boards. Hal Gill, who had twice been hit heavily by Martin in the game, seized the opportunity to exact some retribution. Call it a draw.
End of the second period 1-1. Shots in the second – Islanders 13 – Canadiens-4.
The Third Period
Back To Work – After sitting back through the second period, the Canadiens got back to doing what they have been doing best; that is shutting their opponent down and counterpunching. Still Auld had to make important saves on Wisniewski and Tavares early in the period.
Back in the Lead – The Canadiens got their break in the 8th minute. The Islanders were caught and Subban hit Halpern with a perfect pass to centre ice. Halpern was on a 2-on-1 with Mathieu Darche. Halpern pulled up and fed Benoit Pouliot, the trailer on the play. Pouliot buried a 20 foot wrist shot. 2-1 Canadiens.
Auld Has The Last Word – Seconds after the Pouliot goal, Kostitsyn was sent off for crosschecking. On the power play, the Islanders sixth of the game, Wisniewski let one of his hard shots go from the line. Auld stopped that and then had to deal with Tavares twice close in before smothering the puck. They were the only shots on the power play.
The Clincher – With 1:49 remaining, Brian Gionta intercepted the puck on the half-boards on the right side. He sent what appeared to be a harmless puck towards the net. Travis Moen was right there fighting off Tavares’ checking. He was able to deflect it up and over Rolston to make it 3-1. The Islanders were able to get two harmless shots away in the final 1:20 with their goaltender out. Canadiens win 3-1. Third period shots 11-10 for the Islanders. 31-26 total.
Summing It Up – Much can be made of the way the Canadiens played the second period of the game, but in the end they were playing with a lead they earned in the first period. They never trailed in the game and they showed an ability to regroup in the final period. The Canadiens were shorthanded six times and were on their power play twice. The good news, they killed all of the penalties and were 1-for-2 with the man advantage. The best part of the Gomez line was Travis Moen, who took three of the line’s seven shots. On the up side, lots of contribution from the Plekanec line. But Jeff Halpern’s overall contribution made him, in my view, the Canadiens best forward on the night. Alex Auld earned the game’s first star in his first game in eight months. That can’t be a bad thing. Tomorrow night – the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre.
The Goalscorers – Montreal – Plekanec (5th) PPG (Cammalleri-Hamrlik) Pouliot (2nd) (Halpern-Subban); Moen (2nd) (Gionta) Islanders – Martin (1st) (Nielsen-Hunter)
Shots on Goal – Montreal 12-4-10 = 26 Islanders 7-13-11 = 31.
The Blog Three Stars – First – Alex Auld (stopped 30 of 31 shots) Second – Jeff Halpern (1 assist – plus-1 – won 8 lost 3 faceoffs) Third – Matt Martin (1st career goal – eight hits)
Of Note – Brian Gionta led the Canadiens with 4 shots on goal. He also missed the net four times. Maxim Lapierre register six hits. Josh Gorges blocked five shots. Jeff Halpern was 8 and 3 in the faceoff circle. He now ranks 5th in the league at 61.6%. It was Alex Auld’s first victory since January 29th and his first win against the Islanders in five starts. His last win against them was Jan.14, 2006.