Carey Price doesn’t get too many gifts these days. The Kings made him work for what for his 314th career win. Not that we should be surprised considering the Canadiens miserable record in California over the last seven years. The Kings had five high danger scoring chances in the game, which isn’t a lot. But the Canadiens had only one.
On route to tying Jacques Plante‘s team record for most career victories Price was particularly good getting his pad on a Jeff Carter chance early in the second period with the score still 1-0. Again on Alex Iafollo with it 2-0 in the second. Leipsic on a partial break with it 3-0 and three minutes later he cleared a loose puck away from Dustin Brown who was looking an an empty net. And of course those two saves in the final minute on Kopitar and Kovalchuk with the Kings net empty. As we said, it never seems to be easy any more.
All of that said, as a team, the Canadiens had a pretty good night.
UNDER THE GUN
Under the pressure of the drive for a playoff berth, quite frankly, the Canadiens have not been very good. They lost seven of their last eleven games over the last month leaving themselves in the very precarious position in which they found themselves when they leaarned a half hour before they skated out to start their game at the Staples Centre, that Columbus,with their overtime win against New Jersey, had nudged the Canadiens out their final playoff berth. The Canadiens responded with an excellent road game and took back the second wild card berth. At least for now.
It was the only deal Marc Bergevin made on trade deadline day. Jordan Weal from the Arizona Coyotes in return for Michael Chaput. It was greeted with a collective yawn by fans and media alike. After being ignored for three games, Claude Julien made Weal part of a shakeup that saw Jesperi Kotkaniemi assigned to the press box and Jonathan Drouin dropped down to join Weal on the third line. It couldn’t have worked out better for all concerned. Weal had a terrific night. He nearly scored in his first shift; which as it turned out was the Canadiens only high danger scoring chance of the game. His hustle forced the initial turnover which in turn led to his goal which ultimately was the game-winner. He fanned on a bouncing puck next to an open Kings net with a minute and a half left in the game. Along with his offence, Weal was strong in all three zones, led the Canadiens with four shots on goal and won six of nine faceoffs. His career record tells us he’s not going to have many nights like this one but for one special night he was the Canadiens best player.
We’ve been up-and-down about Shea Weber and Victor Mete over the last month. Weber has looked like he’s playing hurt and Mete seemed to be enduring more of the growing pains inflicted on 20-year old defencemen. They were a functioning defence pair against the Kings. Positioned on their off-side for a faceoff in the Kings end in the fourth minute, after the clean win by Danault it was Weber to Mete for the shot and the tip-in by Gallagher. Ten minutes later Mete had another great chance. And Mete drew second assist on Weber’s 10th goal. Each with two points and plus-2 on the night.
….After the struggles of Saturday against Pittsburgh, Jordie Benn moved back down to the third defence pairing and Brett Kulak promoted to play with Jeff Petry. It worked out very well with Kulak getting 21:07 ice time.
….Once again with third-pairing responsibilities Benn had a solid night alongside Christian Folin who doesn’t seem to make many mistakes.
….Brendan Gallagher had only one shot on goal in the game but the deflection turned into his 30th goal of the season. He is one shy of his career high with 15 games remaining in the season. Twenty-five of his goals are five-on-five which ties him with Alexander Ovechkin. Only John Tavares and Jake Guentzel have more at even strength (27).
….The Canadiens’ only power play opportunity produced one shot on goal. They now have one PPG in their last twenty-five opportunities.
….Julien rested Kotkaniemi sat out a game for the first time this season. The eighteen year old had been on skates since July through development, rookie and regular training camps plus 66 regular season games. Julien estimated Kotkaniemi has played the equivalent of 90 games.
….In the standings there are four teams separated by two points looking for three playoff berths. Carolina currently holds third in the Metropolitan division with the Pittsburgh and the Canadiens holding the first and second wild card berths. Columbus is two points back. The other three teams hold a game in hand over the Canadiens.
It’s on to San Jose for Thursday night. The Canadiens haven’t won a game in the Shark Tank since November 23, 1999. In the eleven years since the Canadiens have lost eleven straight, been outscored 45-20 and were shutout three times.
The Canadiens complete their California swing at Anaheim Friday night. They’ll play Detroit at the Bell Centre next Tuesday.