It has been said that a two goal lead is the worst lead in hockey. I have no idea who said it. To me a two goal lead is much better than being behind two goals which is where the Ottawa Senators found themselves after being outshot by the Canadiens 27-8 in the first period at the Bell Centre Saturday night.
The Canadiens then made it 3-0 and it should have been lights out. But the Canadiens took their foot off it and the Senators laid on the lumber and the game that had all the makings of a rout became something of a nailbiter.
There were a lot of things to like in this game outside of simply ending a four game losing streak. Max Pacioretty was one of them. If the Canadiens are to survive their injury crisis they are going to need Pacioretty to find his trigger finger again. Going into this game he had gone four games without a point, two of those games were while he he was in what I can safely call the purgatory of being on a line with Alex Galchenyuk. Not that Galchenyuk is playing badly it’s just that his style is bad for Pacioretty. Pacioretty responded to the return by pounding eight shots on goal. His 6th shot turned out to be the game winning goal late in the first period thanks to a great pass from…you guessed it…Tomas Plekanec.
A PHYSICAL RESPONSE
He’ll never get much credit for his influence on games but I have to again mention Alexei Emelin. The Ottawa Senators can’t skate with the Canadiens but they can outhit them; in this game to the tune of 56-30. Everybody was a target, especially in the second and third periods. Once again it Emelin who answered back with authority. On the game sheet he was given credit for eight hits, five of them rattled the Bell Centre.
BACK IN FORM
There was some concern for Nathan Beaulieu in the three games following the near-knockout punch he received from the Blue Jackets Nick Foligno ten days ago. He was made a healthy scratch Thursday in Detroit although the exact reasons for that are somewhat hazy. Whatever, he was back in form against the Senators and for him that includes using his speed in the offensive zone which is what he did as he carried the puck around the Ottawa net which allowed Brian Flynn to corral his rebound to score the game’s opening goal. Beaulieu was very much in the middle of the offense the entire night and had four shots and an assist to show for it.
In his post game news conference, Michel Therrien confirmed what most of us in the press box have been thinking. It may be a little early to pass judgment but off what we’ve been seeing there are no complaints. St. John’s coach Syvain Lefebvre has prepared Daniel Carr, Sven Andrighetto and Charles Hudon very well for the heavy demands Therrien makes on his players. Therrien like both Carr and Andrighetto enough that he had them logging power play time a couple of times. And Hudon now has assists in both of his career NHL games.
Mike Condon was scheduled to start this game. Sometime between Friday and Saturday morning, Therrien decided he was going to start Dustin Tokarski for a second straight game. No matter what you think of Tokarski, one can never underestimate his combativeness. It showed again in this game. In their efforts to come back the Senators threw the kitchen sink and anything else they could find into the Canadiens goalcrease especially in the final fourteen minutes of the second period after what would have been a clinching Canadiens fourth goal was called back because Pacioretty put the puck in with his hand. Tokarski battled his way through all of that plus a stretch when the Canadiens were two men short midway through the third period. He did leave a juicy rebound for the Jean-Gabriel Pageau goal. The only fault I could find in his game.
So the four game losing streak is over. The Canadiens will host the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, the slumping Los Angeles Kings on Thursday and then it’s eight games on the road over Christmas and New Year’s. And after that maybe, just maybe, we might be close to seeing Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher back in the lineup.