It was hardly firewagon hockey but it was effective. The Canadiens employed a grinding defensive game against the San Jose Sharks and came away with a 3-1 victory this afternoon at the Bell Centre.

Afternoon hockey has seldom been a strong suit for the Canadiens, and in the first period it looked like the pattern was going to continue. They managed only four shots, all of them coming from the Lars Eller/Mathieu Darche/Benoit Pouliot line. Darche opened the game’s scoring at the six minute mark. Benn Ferreiro tied the game later in the period, but Tomas Plekanec scored a picture goal in the second period and Michael Cammalleri sealed it in the third. The Sharks outshot the Canadiens 27-19, but it was not a game where Carey Price was overworked with the Jacques Martin defensive system operating in high gear.

Summing It Up – Back in the day, Ken Dryden used to quantify his games as “working” or “non-working”. He was refering to how much effort his teammates made him expend in order to get the win. Carey Price would tell you, this game fit in the “non-working” category. But for a couple of shots by Dany Heatley, it was a relatively easy night as the team defence kept most of the San Jose shooters to the outside while effectively shutting down the passing lanes. The fans gave Price first star anyway, which seems to be taking the easy way out. Plekanec and Darche got the second and third stars and deserved them. Others to catch my eye were Andrei Kostitsyn, who led the team in hits, Maxim Lapierre, Benoit Pouliot and Tom Pyatt, plus the defense pairing of Hamrlik and Spacek. Trying to bring some life to his game, Jacques Martin had Scott Gomez skating with Cammalleri and Moen in the first half of the game and then Pyatt and Lapierre through final period and a half. Cammalleri’s goal came while he was playing with Halpern and Moen. Yannick Weber started his second game in a row on defence. He seemed to be nervous at the outset but then settled in to play fairly well. The Canadiens scored the first goal and they’re lights-out when the score first. The record in that department is 15-1-2. San Jose has not won a game in Montreal since Dec. 17, 2002. Oh! And about Price – This was the eighth time in his last 12 starts he’s allowed one goal or fewer. His record is now 16-7-2. The goals against average is now 1.96 and his save percentage .935.

How It Went

The First Period

Nap Time – And it showed. For the Canadiens, two o’clock in the afternoon is time for a game-day nap. In their time zone, the Sharks would normally be going through their morning skate. Neither team looked ready to play. The the first four minutes there was only one shot, a harmless 70 footer taken by the Sharks Mike Moore.

Opening Act –The Canadiens first shot was a goal. At the six minute mark, Benoit Pouliot appeared to have the puck slide off his stick but it came right to Mathieu Darche who shot wide but then collected the puck off the backboards and scored. 1-0 Canadiens.

Taking Advantage – By the midpoint of the period there had been a total of three shots on goal, two by San Jose. But the Sharks gathered up their game and through the final half of the period they outshot the Canadiens 8-3. Price’s best save of the period came on a Heatley thirty foot wrist shot in the twelfth minute.

Tie Game- At 13:04 Logan Couture body checked the puck away from Hal Gill and fed Benn Ferriero who shot it past Price, who had Josh Gorges blocking his view of the puck.

The Eller Line AgainIn the 17th minute, it was Benoit Pouliot on the attack forcing Antti Niemi to make a save on his heavy wrist shot and then Pouliot got a second close-in chance on the rebound. The Eller line had all four Canadiens shots in the period; the two by Pouliot plus Eller himself and the Darche goal. End of the period the game tied at 1-1. San Jose outshot the Canadiens 10-4.

The Second Period

The Wake-Up Call – The home team finally started to get it’s game in gear midway through the period. Pouliot had a scoring chance at the eight minute mark. And it was Pouliot again in the thirteenth minute.

Work Of Art – Andrei Kostitsyn took a centre ice hit from Mike Moore but got the puck to Tomas Plekanec along the right wing. Plekanec raced into the zone to the corner and then circled out to the high slot. At the same time Lapierre had moved to the front of the net. The Plekanec shot against the grain beat the screened Niemi. A lot of credit to Lapierre, who did not get a point on the play. 2-1 Canadiens after two periods. Through the final 12 minutes of the period the Canadiens outshot the Sharks 7-5. Total shots 21-13 San Jose.

The Third Period

Protecting the Lead – The only scoring chance the Sharks had through the first eight minutes of the period was Dany Heatley who fanned on a rebound at 4:49.

Clinching It – With the Thornton/Marleau/Heatley line at the end of what turned out to be a 1:40 shift, Roman Hamrlik checked the puck away from Thorton at centre ice and muscled his way to a breakaway.  He got the shot away close in and then got a second shot on the rebound. Cammalleri, trailing on the play took care of the rest. 3-1 Canadiens at 8:22.

Shutdown Mode – From the time of the goal to a penalty called on Lars Eller at 16-minutes, a span of 7:38 neither team took a shot on goal. During the Eller penalty, Heatley took his 5th and final shot on goal. It was last Sharks scoring chance.

Going For It – With ten seconds left in the game, and the Sharks net empty, Carey Price with a two goal lead, stepped out of the crease and launched a high clearing shot towards the other goal. It only got to the Sharks blueline. Nice try though. Final score Montreal-3 San Jose-1.

The Goalscorers – Montreal Darche (5th) (Pouliot-Gill); Plekanec (9th) (Kostitsyn-Weber); Cammalleri (8th) (Hamrlik) San Jose – Ferriero (3rd) (Couture)

Shots on Goal – San Jose 10-13-4 = 27 Montreal 4-9-6 = 19

The Three Stars – First – Carey Price (stopped 26 of 27 shots) Second – Tomas Plekanec (winning goal plus-1 58% on faceoffs) Third – Mathieu Darche (1 goal)

The Fenwick/Corsi Num

Game Number Team Player Number Goals Saved shots Missed Shots Fenwick+/- Blocked Shots Corsi+/-
20380 MTL 6 – D – SPACEK, JAROSLAV 0 0 5 10 2 3 -6 1 8 -13
20380 MTL 11 – C – GOMEZ, SCOTT 1 1 6 4 2 2 2 2 3 1
20380 MTL 13 – L – CAMMALLERI, MICHAEL 1 1 2 7 3 0 -2 3 5 -4
20380 MTL 14 – C – PLEKANEC, TOMAS 1 0 2 8 3 3 -5 4 3 -4
20380 MTL 15 – C – HALPERN, JEFF 1 0 2 7 2 0 -2 3 6 -5
20380 MTL 21 – R – GIONTA, BRIAN 0 0 2 9 3 5 -9 3 4 -10
20380 MTL 26 – D – GORGES, JOSH 0 1 2 6 1 0 -4 4 5 -5
20380 MTL 31 – G – PRICE, CAREY 3 1 16 23 7 6 -4 11 16 -9
20380 MTL 32 – L – MOEN, TRAVIS 1 1 2 6 3 0 -1 3 3 -1
20380 MTL 40 – C – LAPIERRE, MAXIM 1 0 6 3 0 0 4 3 3 4
20380 MTL 44 – D – HAMRLIK, ROMAN 1 0 7 9 2 1 0 1 7 -6
20380 MTL 45 – D – PICARD, ALEXANDRE 1 0 7 6 3 1 4 6 5 5
20380 MTL 46 – L – KOSTITSYN, ANDREI 1 0 2 10 3 5 -9 3 4 -10
20380 MTL 52 – L – DARCHE, MATHIEU 1 0 6 4 1 1 3 2 5 0
20380 MTL 57 – L – POULIOT, BENOIT 1 0 6 5 1 1 2 2 5 -1
20380 MTL 68 – D – WEBER, YANNICK 3 0 9 7 4 3 6 6 3 9
20380 MTL 75 – D – GILL, HAL 1 1 2 8 2 4 -8 4 4 -8
20380 MTL 81 – C – ELLER, LARS 0 0 6 4 0 1 1 2 4 -1
20380 MTL 94 – C – PYATT, TOM 0 0 6 2 0 0 4 3 3 4