After the embarrassment that was their less than lackluster performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs the Canadiens needed to come out with more tenacity, more energy and that will to win. Losers of the three straight Montreal could not afford to let another two precious points slip away tonight. On the other hand the Tampa Bay Lightning, losers of four straight sit relatively in the same boat as the Canadiens who coming into tonight were separated by just one point. So how would coach Therrien’s new line combinations fare against the NHL’s highest scoring team? with Pacioretty playing with the Gally Squad and Brandon Prust moved up to the top line both units looked exceptionally well in the first 20 minutes.
In the opening frame Montreal needed to come out with that intensity they lacked against Toronto. Well that did not exactly happen but they did display consistency. The Habs played to their strengths as well as frustrating the Bolts to take a few mindless penalties that would result in the games first goal coming from Brian Gionta who tipped home his third of the year (second on the PP) from a pretty cross crease pass from Tomas Plekanec (5). P.K Subban would also pick up an assist on the play (2).
For a little change of pace the Bolts would have their fair share of time on the man advantage as Montreal would take two penalties back to back giving this offensively potent team more chances to draw even. Now Montreal was successful in killing both penalties with a lot of thanks to Lars Eller and Carey Price who were Montreal’s top penalty killers tonight.
Soon after the PK crew did their job it was P.K Subban who would add to Montreal’s lead with a light slap shot from just inside the blue line for his third goal in his last four games. The lone assist credited to Lars Eller (3). The seemingly harmless shot found its behind tender Anders Lindback after an unfortunate redirection by defenseman Matt Carle’s leg. The bad luck would continue for Lindback as Montreal’s fourth line would connect on a wild play resulting in Travis Moen’s first goal of the season. With Colby Armstrong flying down the right wing he threw the puck on net squeezing through Lindback and the post resulting in a scrum above the paint and a sprawling Lindback. Assists credited to Lars Eller (4) and Colby Armstrong (1). This goal would come with just 1:06 left in the second period giving the Habs a nice comfortable lead going into the final frame but just how would this team perform with a sizeable lead?
Early on Montreal stuck to the game plan, did not allow many quality shots and pounced on rebounds whenever the puck was free. Against Toronto the defensive effort was less than acceptable however tonight Montreal’s defense core did not allow many second efforts in or around Price’s paint and quickly pushed the puck out of the zone before Tampa Bay were able to regroup. Now this is the Tampa Bay Lightning and they would beat Price, well Victor Hedman did with his third goal of the season. Assists credited to Pyatt (4) and Pouliot (4). Some can argue this was redirected with his glove however video review proved inconclusive. Just 4:13 later Hedman would find the back of the net again after the puck hit a few different skates and just eased its way into the net. Lone assist credited Purcell (9). Looks like some of the bad luck rubbed off on Montreal and at the worst possible time. Off to the shootout where Montreal struggles mightily last season and were 0-1 coming into tonight. Carey Price would stop all three shots from Tampa Bay (Hedman, St. Louis and Stamkos) while David Desharnais, you know the guy who has been the target of many fans’ jeers as of late, would net the only shootout goal preserving the extra point for his club. Crisis averted you could say.
Overall, tonight was a statement game for Montreal as they were in dire need of rectifying what took place just a few days prior. The penalty kill went 4-5 while the power play went 1-7 and considering how well Lindback played tonight those PP numbers could have been a little more impressive. Secondly, the scoreboard will not reflect what transpired tonight. The miraculous saves by Lindback, the goal scored with a glove and the game tying goal redirecting more times than I can count certainly do not reflect that. Montreal was able to stop the bleeding twice tonight ending their losing streak and earning the extra point in the shootout which does not happen too often. This win can go along way for this young Canadiens team and with the struggling Florida Panthers up next (4-6-1) hopefully the Habs can continue to build on what they started in Tampa Bay tonight.
GO HABS GO