Among his many moves was dropping Jonathan Drouin down to play with Max Domi and Andrew Shaw. The reunion was spectacular and became the driving force behind an 8-1 win over a Detroit Red Wings that had clearly packed in it’s season with twenty games remaining.
The good things to come out of the game included the end of a five game road losing streak during which the Canadiens had been outscored 20-8. The win also fended off the wild card challenge of both Pittsburgh and Carolina, at least for the time being.
Seems to me the biggest beneficiary of the line changes was Drouin. Although they weren’t any better than the rest of their teammates Monday night, on the whole both Domi and Shaw had been playing pretty well while Drouin, playing with Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher, had failed to register a point in seven games. Tuesday night with Domi and Shaw, Drouin registered a career-best four assists.
At the same time Shaw nailed down his first career hat trick and, with two goals and three assists, Domi’s five points were also was a career high. A total of twelve scoring points between them and five of the Canadiens eight goals. Each of them was plus-5.
As good as Domi and Drouin were, once again it was Shaw‘s work ethic that stood out for me. If Brendan Gallagher is the most competitive member of the team, Shaw is a close second.
What seems different from years past is his ability to find open ice in the offensive zone. All three of his goals came because he worked himself into the right place at the right time. He now has 16 despite missing nineteen games through injuries. Five of those goals and nine points have come in the nine games since he returned from that neck injury.
GOAL OF THE NIGHT
Tomas Tatar scored the game’s only first period goal. It was a beauty. Tatar knocked down a high clearing pass from the Canadiens end by Jordie Benn and then fought his way all the way to the net Filip Hronek draped all over him before tucking it past Jimmy Howard. Had Tatar not scored Hronek would have been handed a hooking penalty on the play. It was Tatar’s 22nd goal.
THE REST OF THE SHUFFLE
Julien also re-arranged his defence starting with sitting out Mike Reilly in favour of newcomer Christian Folin. Paired with Brett Kulak, the main hope was Folin would play a conservative game and stay out of trouble. He did more than that. In 17:17 ice time he drew an assist on one of the Domi goals and finished at plus-3. Kulak was plus-4.
Shea Weber looked much better playing alongside Benn than he has the last two weeks with Victor Mete. Mete played with Jeff Petry.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
…..Dale Weise joined Nate Thompson and Artturi Lehkonen on the fourth line. I can’t say they accomplished much. The line was on the ice for the only Detroit goal. Lehkonen had another high danger scoring chance and muffed it. His last goal was December 28th.
….For the third time this season Carey Price was asked to play both ends of a back-to-back series. He faced 29 shots, only four of which were considered dangerous. The only goal he gave up came on a double deflection.
….All eight of the Canadiens goals were at even strength. The Canadiens overall season goal differential is plus-10. However five-on-five they are one on the league leaders at plus-27.
….One of the strengths that Nate Thompson brought to the Canadiens is his faceoff ability. He won 14 of 17 (82%) against Detroit. As a team the Canadiens were at 66%.
….Defensive blunders killed the Red Wings in a second period in which they outshot the Canadiens 14-12 but were outscored 5-1.
THE WILD CARD RACE
….The Canadiens still have the first wild card berth in the east, one point ahead of Pittsburgh and two ahead of Columbus who lost to Pittsburgh Tuesday night. Pittsburgh has one game in hand over the Canadiens. Columbus has two. Carolina moved into third place in the Metro division with their win over Los Angeles. They have one fewer point than the Canadiens,also with a game in hand. Basically four teams separated by two points.
The Canadiens will try to even the four-game road trip with a win at Madison Square Garden Friday night. That will be followed by another game with major proportions against the Penguins Saturday night at the Bell Centre. Will Price be asked to play another set of back-to-backs? Next week the Canadiens are in California – Los Angeles Tuesday and then San Jose Thursday and Anaheim Friday which will be the third set of back to back games in twelve days.