Playing without two of their most important centres the Canadiens ran up their highest regulation time shots on goal total in a decade in a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils Thursday night.
Consider this, not only was the team without Alex Galchenyuk, David Desharnais and defenseman Greg Pateryn but they faced the letdown of a long tough road trip in which they were barely .500. Their bottom defense pair of Nathan Beaulieu and Zach Redmond were both coming off the injury list and Michel Therrien put together a patchwork lineup that had looked like something he might try on the first day of training camp. In the end that patchwork lineup ran up 49 shots on Devils goaltender Cory Schneider, 24 of them in the third period when one might legitimately think that, playing with the lead, the foot might have come off the gas.
It’s only the first of more than twenty games the Canadiens will play before they see Galchenyuk and Desharnais in their lineup again. Not every game over the next two months is going to look like this one, so fans are advised to savour the moments whenever they come.
ALL HANDS ON DECK
Any one who is critical of any member of the Canadiens in this game would be picking the smallest of nits. From the opening faceoff the entire team was on it’s game and the name of the game is speed. They made the Devils look slow, and the Devils are not a slow team. First period shots wre 11-8 for the Canadiens; second period 14-6 and they buried New Jersey in the third period 24-7. Total shots on goal 49-21, the highest total Canadiens shots on goal in a regulation game in ten years.
The opposition tactic seems to be to run Carey Price any chance you get. The Devils first goal was scored just before Adam Henrique flattened Price in the goalmouth. Price said the goal was a good one but said Henrique should have been called for running him after the fact. Late in the first period Kyle Palmieri tried to do the same thing and Price clearly had enough. He jumped Palmiere, hit him once on the head with his blocker and three or four times to the midsection. He knew he rised a game misconduct but felt he had to make a statement. Price told reporters after the game that the only time referees are calling goaltender interference any more is on goal replays. He apparently had enough and took matters into his own hands. One result was, the Devils stayed away from the Canadiens crease the rest of the night.
Of all the tinkering Therrien was forced to do to set up for this game, two things stood out. He put Phillip Danault on a line with Andrew Shaw and the rookie Artturi Lehkonen and Torrey Mitchell centered Paul Byron and Brenden Gallagher. Each of those lines produced a game high 11 shots on goal. Both lines produced 2 goals and five points. Danault, who was the game’s first star, also won 11 of 15 faceoffs.
INTO THE FIRE
With Greg Pateryn suddenly out with a broken foot and Mark Barberio returned to St. John’s, the third defense pairing was Beaulieu and making his Canadiens debut, Zach Redmond. Could we ask for more? They were both rock solid. Beaulieu was plus three in the game, Redmond plus 2 and each picked up an assist.
….Although his line was not prominent on the scoresheet, Max Pacioretty scored an important goal and shared the game lead in shots on goal with Jeff Petry at five. Pacioretty’s defense has never been questioned this season and it seems the offensive side of his game is finally coming around. The Plekanec/Pacioretty/Radulov line had a good night in terms of puck possession.
….Same thing with Brendan Gallagher. There have been times during his slump when he has seemed to be less aggressive than we’re used to seeing from him. He was back battling hard on every shift. Nine shot attempts in the game – three on goal – two assists and plus-2.
….In the off season, in his neverending search for team-depth, Marc Bergevin signed not only Zach Redmond but he also traded for Andrew Shaw. Shaw led the Canadiens with six hits – two more than Alexei Emelin. He also had two assists. After a slow start Shaw now has five points his last 7 games and ten over his last 13.
….You can take replays too far. The first period looked like one of those replay fests we became used to seeing in the CFL this year. It took four minutes short of an hour to get through the period thanks to double reviews on both goals scored in the period. The upside of that is, because both coaches lost their appeals. they had no more timouts to appeal anything else that happened on the night.
The Canadiens now have a 13-1-1 home record. They’ll face the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night at the Bell Centre and then Boston on Monday. The Avalanche will be coming to Montreal off a win in Boston Thursday night.