Nathan Beaulieu, Max Pacioretty,Max Pacioretty scored twice in the first period to give the Canadiens a 2-0 lead and the Canadiens and Carey Price then hung on to record a 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday night at the Bell Centre. The goals were Pacioretty’s 28th and 29th of the season. Nick Foligno narrowed the score to 2-1 sixty-two seconds after Pacioretty’s second goal but the Canadiens were able to hold  the Blue Jackets off the board the rest of the way. Tomas Plekanec completed the scoring with a shorthanded empty net goal with 50 seconds remaining. Final shots on goal were 32-24 in the Blue Jackets favour. The Molson Cup three stars were Pacioretty, Price and Foligno.

Adding It Up –

Doing Something Right – This win combined with the Islanders afternoon shootout loss to the Washington Capitals allowed the Habs to vault into first place in the Eastern Conference. From a points percentage standpoint the Canadiens at .686 are second in the league behind the Western Conference’s Nashville Predators .720.

Comfort Zone – The Canadiens seem to thrive on protecting leads in a close game. The shots on goal were 11-7 in Montreal’s favour after Nick Foligno had narrowed the score to 2-1. After getting 11 shots in the first 14 minutes of the game, the Canadiens totaled 13 in the remaining 45:55. In that span Carey Price stopped 27 shots.

canadiens columbus priceSame Old – Those who are charged with naming the three stars have come to the point where they’re finding excuses NOT to name Carey Price the game’s first star. In this one he was named second star behind Max Pacioretty but once again, Price was clearly the difference maker. Another one of his one goal performances. He’s allowed one goal or fewer in 13 of his last 23 starts. Price has won all four monthly Molson Cup awards and he’ll win February as well.

Paying Dividends – In 2010 and 2011 the Canadiens made defensemen their first round draft choices; first Jarred Tinordi and then Nathan Beaulieu. The wisdom of those choices, along with the 2008 Toronto trade that brought them Greg Pateryn was there for all to see with veterans Sergei Gonchar and Alexei Emelin on the shelf again. Beaulieu is proving that he can hold his own without Gonchar’s support. He had a terrific night which included a first class setup pass for the Pacioretty goal that proved to be the game winner. He also blocked six shots. Pateryn is a keeper. Pretty much a mistake free night from him which could do nothing but improve his blueline partner Tinordi and his confidence. However, Tinordi may want to give up on the fighting before he get’s hurt again. The ultimare success of the trio may shift Marc Bergevn’s focus from defense to forwards at the trade deadline.

canadiens columbus thomasAlso Worth Mentioning – 5’9” 178lb. Christian Thomas is another one of those players who have to be judged by the size of their heart rather than stature. That was a pretty good scrap against Columbus forward Matt Calvert. ….Together, the pairing of Beaulieu and Tom Gilbert blocked 12 shots, 6 apiece. ….Because of their success Therrien was able to ease the work load on Subban and Markov to a more realistic 26:39 and 22:16 respectively. …..Once again Jacob de la Rose led the team in hits. Four in this game. Twenty-three over his last five, by far the most on the Habs over that span. …For the record,Carey Price‘s league leading numbers are 1.91 goals against average and .935 save percentage.

Moving On – The Canadiens are on the road next week. They’ll take on the St. Louis Blues powerhouse on Tuesday and then will face Columbus again on Thursday before coming home to face Toronto on Saturday.