Team’s re-act differently when their day-in day-out routine is interrupted. It was clear that the Montreal Canadiens benefited from their three days of rest through their All-Star break more than the Buffalo Sabres did.
The Canadiens came out with a jump to their game unseen through most of the last month and a half. At the same time, the Sabres who have a history of dominating the Canadiens at the Bell Centre, failed to show up.
Until early in the third period the Canadiens were in total control. It wasn’t until they were carrying a 5-0 lead early in the third period that they took their foot off the gas something that cost Carey Price his second shot at a shutout in the last three games.
LOOKING AT FORTY –
Max Pacioretty scored his third hattrick of the season and his line combined for seven scoring points. With 24 goals in the bank, he would need 16 goals in the season’s final 31 games to become a forty goal scorer for the first time in his career. At this writing, Pacioretty now is in a four way tie for second in league goal scoring behind only Sidney Crosby’s 28. Long forgetten are his struggles through the first 25 games of the season.
FRESH LEGS –
The injury listed dropped from five to only two with this game. David Desharnais, Andrei Markov and Greg Pateryn all returned from injury reserve and all had a hand in the win.
Desharnais scored what will be listed as the game winning goal and centred one of four solid lines in the game.
Pateryn was gametime replacement for flu-ridden Jeff Petry and wound up with just short of 19 minutes ice time and five shots on goal.
And they gave Markov the task of shepherding the newcomer Nikita Nesterov through his first game in a Canadiens jersey. Not much rust there. Markov was the game’s third star, picked up an assist and finished the night plus-2. Nesterov’s skating and passing were excellent. And he worked hard, which seems to be the main complaint about his time in Tampa.
“TONS OF ENERGY” –
The words Michel Therrien used to describe Alexander Radulov in this game. When the Canadiens signed him, expectations were the Canadiens would be getting another big goalscorer. What they have is the best play making winger since Alex Kovalev was at his best. Radulov drew first assists on the first two Pacioretty goals and was very much involved on the forecheck that produced Pacioretty’s unassisted third goal.
ALL ABOUT TIMING –
Carey Price lost his shutout bid with just under four minutes remaining. The fans were more upset about that than Carey was. This is the fourth consecutive game that Price has looked like his old remarkable self. Two saves in a ten second span with the score still 1-0 stand out for me. He stopped Ryan O’Reilly and then Jack Eichel on a dangerous rebound. A minute later Pacioretty scored his second goal and the Canadiens were on their way. In the meaningless sixteen minutes of garbage time from the Canadiens fifth goal to the final buzzer the Sabres outshot the Canadiens 18-2 and scored twice.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….Among Paul Byron’s three shots on goal in the game was his 14th goal of the season. The 14 goals have come on 62 shots on goal, a league leading scoring percentage of 22.6%.
….Michel Therrien makes full use of the fact that six of his twelve forwards are natural centres by alternating them on strong side faceoffs. The results vary. Both Buffalo goals were scored on lost faceoffs in the Canadiens end. Still, leading the way was Torrey Mitchell who won nine of 14 for 64%. Linemates Andrew Shaw and David Desharnais alternated and together won six of nine.
OPEN FOR DEBATE –
Alex Galchenyuk will return to the lineup probably Thursday night in Philadelphia. If not then, it will be Saturday afternoon against Washington. The major talking point between now and then will be where to slot him in the lineup considering the chemistry that exists between Pacioretty, Phillip Danault and Alexander Radulov. Last time Galchenyuk returned Michel Therrien placed him back between Pacioretty and Radulov with negative results. There’ll be heavy discussion in the coaching office over this one over the next day or two.
This is another heavy stretch leading up to the Canadiens five day break which begins February 13th. The Buffalo game was the first of four game over six days and eight over the next thirteen. Next up – Philadelphia on Thursday and then those back-to-back afternoon Super Bowl weekend games against Washington and Edmonton Saturday and Sunday.