Habs Double Down, Beat Islanders A Second Time in A Weekend

Photo: Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

Photo: Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

Habs Double Down, Beat Islanders For A Second Time In 48 Hours

If you consider Friday night the start of the weekend, the Habs made this a great weekend – for Montreal fans. For Islanders fans, not so much.

For the second time in 48 hours, the Canadiens beat the New York Islanders, and fought hard for both wins.

After they won in Brooklyn, the Canadiens came home to try to do it again in Montreal.  This time, they did it with a few line-up changes.

Devante Smith-Pelly, it was announced earlier in the day, was out with an undisclosed lower-body injury. As the Canadiens had already called up Sven Andrighetto, he slipped into the line-up. However, he was put on the second line, with Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller. Alexander Semin was now in Smith-Pelly’s spot on the fourth line.

The Habs also called up Bud Holloway, but he did not lace up for this game. He will, however, likely get a chance soon enough; Brendan Gallagher left the game in the second period after blocking a shot with his hand, and did not return. Here is how the incident is described in the game recap on the NHL website:

Montreal Right wing Brendan Gallagher left the game after he was struck on the left hand while blocking New York defenseman Johnny Boychuk’s slap shot at 12:34 of the second.

After retrieving his stick, Gallagher tried to continue playing without his left glove before skating to the bench, throwing his right glove and stick to the ice in frustration before heading straight to the dressing room while favoring his left arm.

Though there was no word on the nature of the injury, close-ups (screenshots from people’s televisions or computers) went viral across Twitter and the armchair doctors declared it a broken finger.

I will spare you the photo – if you’re like me, these things make you queasy. But I will say that it was rather graphically clear – something was amiss with Gally’s hand.

At the post-game presser, Michel Therrien confirmed the injury: 2 fractured fingers, surgery on Monday, and Gallagher is out indefinitely.

(I’ll wait while you react)

The Canadiens then put Alexander Semin on the top line, in Gallagher’s spot, and it worked well. Whether that will be a steady spot for him remains to be seen.

The Islanders fought hard for this win – they, for the most part, played better than they had on Friday night. But it just wasn’t enough.

They chose not to play Jaroslav Halak; if you recall, Halak was pulled on Friday night, after letting in 3 goals on 11 shots. Thomas Greiss took over, let in 1 goal that game, but played well overall. So he got the start Sunday night.

Here’s how this game played out.

First Period: Shots 10-9 Montreal

Goal: John Tavares (Assists: Kyle Okposo, Travis Hamonic)

The first period began very slowly. There was some great action – skating was at a premium, and there were some shots on goal, but there was a lot of nothing happening.

That is, until the Islanders scored the first goal with just about 90 seconds left in the period. Late-period goals are really frustrating, especially when the team has been playing well till then. But it was a beautiful goal – have to give credit where it’s due – and one that Carey Price just couldn’t save.

Many blame that goal on David Desharnais; whether or not he was at fault, he was mismatched in that shift. John Tavares is a top player, and a first liner. Desharnais is having a terrific season but that’s mostly because he isn’t on the top line as he had been in previous seasons, and therefore isn’t going up against guys who are at a skill level against which he cannot defend.

But we also know that Desharnais is maligned by many fans who just can’t see the value he brings to the table.

The team stayed out of the penalty box – something that would not happen in the other two periods.

Second Period: Shots 10-9 New York

Goals: David Desharnais (PPG: Assists: Dale Weise, P.K. Subban), Tomas Fleischmann (Short-handed goal, unassisted)

As you can see from the shot count, both teams were playing to win. The second period progressed with the same fervent play, but the Habs had a hard time staying out of the box.

First, Nathan Beaulieu took a penalty (one of two he would get this game), but the Habs killed it well.

They got a power play as well, but did not capitalize on it. It was the second power play they got, a delay-of-game penalty on Casey Cizikas, at 8:22. Now, I’ve said it in these pages, I don’t like the delay-of-game penalty.

But this game? I changed that tune; at 9:37, David Desharnais – on a gorgeous pass from Dale Weise – got the tying goal, and a power-play goal at that. Weise was struggling to keep the puck, about to lose it to an Islanders player, when he passed it to Desharnais who was right in front.

Here’s what it looked like:

One thing I love about DD: when he scores, the first thing he does it to point to the player who passed it to him. I’ve seen him do it every time. That kind of generosity is one reason he’s such an asset to the Canadiens.

At 12:57, Tomas Plekanec took a penalty for interference (against Josh Bailey). The Habs have a very effective penalty kill, but lately, they make more of it than just defending their net. Tomas Fleischmann, on an amazing lucky break, managed to grab the puck when Islanders’ Kyle Okposo seemed to lose an edge and fall. (There will be those who debate a possible tripping penalty that went uncalled but consensus was the misfortune of Okposo’s blade)

Fleischmann, lightning-fast skater that he is, got a breakaway and scored the short-handed goal on Thomas Greiss.

Here’s how it began:

And the breakaway/goal:

His hustle, and his accuracy just astound at times like these.

The period ended with the Habs now in the lead – two goals scored in the middle frame; one power-play goal, the other a shortie. Not bad for 20 minutes.

Third Period: Shots 8-4 Montreal

Goals:

  • New York: Anders Lee (Assists: Josh Bailey, Mikhail Grabovski)
  • Montreal: Alex Galchenyuk (PPG: Assists: P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov), Max Pacioretty (Empty Net: Assist: Tomas Plekanec)

Not a high shot count for either team, but Montreal had double the SOG and it showed on the scoreboard.

Dale Weise took a penalty at 9:49 of the period, and the Habs managed to kill the 2 minutes; but just 2 seconds later, Anders Lee got the equalizer, which put both teams into more of a fighting mode than before.

There was yet another penalty taken – Beaulieu for his second – but again, the Habs managed to keep the Islanders from capitalizing.

At 16:25, Taylor Beck was called for (blatant) interference on Carey Price. This was something I had seen on Friday night, over and over, but uncalled. However, Sunday’s game was different, and Beck went to the box.

It didn’t take long: just 6 seconds into the penalty, Alex Galchenyuk broke his goal drought (his last goal was October 29), and scored the go-ahead goal for the Habs. It was one incredibly hard wrist shot from the hashmarks to the Greiss’s left, and it was great to see Galchenyuk back in form.

https://twitter.com/CanadiensMTL/status/668632647632031744

(think he was happy with the goal?)

But 3-1/2 minutes is a long time in a hockey game, and the Islanders had plenty of fight left in their team.

Luck was on the Canadiens’ side, though; at 18:38, the Islanders took a bench penalty for too many men on the ice (another penalty I despise – unless the Habs benefit, of course).

Travis Hamonic was quite vocal about his protest, and took a 10-minute game misconduct for mouthing off at the referee about the penalty. Coach Jack Capuano was not happy either, but when you look at the ice, there were definitely 6 men with skates on the surface:

At this point, the Islanders took their time out. If they pulled their goalie, that would give them an even-strength attack, so the Habs were still in a good position to get the insurance goal. The penalty would last the remainder of regulation and into OT if the Islanders evened things up.

When play resumed, it was an offensive face-off, so Greiss could not leave the ice. However, when the Islanders got the puck out, he skated to the bench and it was 5-on-5.

With 15 seconds left, Dale Weise appeared to have scored. But the goal was waved off, as the referees called offside. Looking at this photo, it’s clear that Desharnais was in the zone before Weise:

They put 2 seconds back on the clock, and the faceoff went to the Habs’ zone.

Max Pacioretty was the one to get that insurance goal, and the game ended with a 4-2 victory for the Habs.

Some Thoughts:

  • This game completes the regular season’s series between the Islanders and Habs, with a sweep by the Canadiens.
  • Perhaps Carey Price wasn’t exactly on his game Friday night, but he was nowhere near off it on Sunday. He was in the zone, made not only big saves, but huge saves, and this one is just an example:

He’s baaaaaaack!

  • Alex Galchenyuk got the proverbial monkey off his back with that goal; was it coincidence that there were line-up changes, or was he just ready? As he got the game-winning goal, he was rewarded with the first star of the game (Fleischmann and Okposo were 2 and 3)
  • His post-game comments were enlightening, though:

  • Sven Andrighetto was pivotal in this game. While he got no points, he drew two penalties and sparked the line he was on; if this was Galchenyuk’s missing piece, it worked. Andrighetto’s speed is beautiful to watch, too.
  • Losing Gallagher (indefinitely) will be a huge loss for the team. His work ethic has been the discussion of many an admiring fan, analyst, teammate. He will play bruised, banged-up, tired or out of gas, but unfortunately, he cannot play with fractured fingers.

Here’s a statistic that is one indication of his value:

According to Eric Engels, Gallagher has missed only 5 games in his NHL career. This will probably be something he takes harder than anyone. But of course, his health is most important.

Engels spoke with Gallagher the morning of the game, and here are two quotes that illustrate Gally’s fortitude and determination:

The team will be fine; there is a lot of talent waiting in the wings, and Therrien will likely try different players on different lines as the weeks go by.

Gallagher is important, but the way the Habs have been playing this season, this will not slow them down. They have shown – in the way they adjusted to Carey Price’s injury – that they can, and will, adapt to any adversity.

The Canadiens have a lot of depth; but it will be great when he finally does return, because this team is that much more entertaining with Gallagher buzzing around the net.

Buckle your seatbelts, Habs fans. A Gally-less Canadiens team is definitely one with something missing. But have faith: 2015-16 is an amazing season to be a Habs fan.

Next game will be Wednesday night, when the Canadiens visit the New York Rangers. Puck drop is 7:00 p.m. (take note of the time, as weekday home games are usually 7:30)

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