Habs Edged Rangers In Entertaining, Emotional Game

Photo by Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images

Habs Edged Rangers In Entertaining, Emotional Game

The Habs edged the Rangers in an entertaining, emotional game filled with excitement and controversy, Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

Andrew Shaw and Alex Galchenyuk returned to the line-up, after being sidelined with injuries. Shaw played only the first period, due to a penalty and game misconduct (more on that in the story), but Galchenyuk’s comeback saw him scoring a pivotal goal at the beginning of the second period.

There was plenty of controversy in this game. A reviewed goal by way of a Rangers coach’s challenge – which was, rightfully, called off – and a reviewed goal by way of a Habs coach’s challenge – which, astoundingly, was allowed to stand.

The Rangers were hungry to win, having lost to Toronto the night before, and they showed it. They were aggressive on the puck, continuing to score every time the Habs evened things out, but in the 3rd period, the floodgates opened, and the Habs scored 3 quick goals in 62 seconds.

Michel Therrien, after the game, credited the fans with giving the players the encouragement and energy that clearly translated to the bench, and stated that the whole game had a playoff feel to it. That’s how it is, when these two Original Six, extremely talented teams meet.

It was Carey Price‘s 6th straight win against the Rangers. He made 29 saves.

Here’s how it played out.

First Period: Shots 11-10 New York

Goal: Brandon Pirri (PPG; Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan), 12:24

The first period began well, with the Habs showing a lot of life. At 4 minutes in, Phillip Danault looked to have scored a beauty with a backhand shot from the side of the net.

However, Alain Vigneault used a Coach’s Challenge, citing goaltender interference.

Upon review, the goal was called off, because Andrew Shaw had been pushed into Antti Raanta.

On a power play, the Rangers opened the scoring at 12:24.

At 16:56, Andrew Shaw – just back from a concussion – hit Jesper Fast in a late hit. Fast did not have the puck, and he went to the ice, holding his head.

Shaw was challenged in a fight, by J. T. Miller, and when it was done, he was penalized a 5-minute major, and subsequently a game misconduct.

The Habs spent the remainder of the period on the penalty kill, and started the 2nd with 1:56 remaining to kill in the second.

Second Period: Shots 14-12 New York

Goals:

  • Alexander Galcheyuk (Mark Barberio, Max Pacioretty), 3:08, Brian Flynn (Phillip Danault), 7:58
  • Rick Nash (Kevin Hayes, Patel Buhnevich), 6:20; J.T. Miller (SHG; Kevin Hayes), 11:07

The period began with almost 2 minutes left to the power play, which the Habs killed admirably. Henrik Lundqvist replaced Raanta, who left with an upper-body injury.

Alex Galchenyuk scored for the Habs at 3:08, evening them up at 1.

The next goal was one that had jaws dropping in both fan bases, in sports media, and all over social media. Kevin Hayes took a shot on Carey Price, and Price made a beautiful save. However, a second later, Rick Nash scored a go-ahead goal, but what was brought to everyone’s attention was what happened after Hayes took his shot.

His blade got caught in Price’s pads as he skated away, essentially dragging Price away from the net. Michel Therrien challenged the goal, and replay after replay showed the drag. It was clear that Price had no ability to even attempt to save a goal.

Take a look:

The goal counted. And the explanation was, ostensibly, that Price was out of the crease when Hayes’s blade made contact.

Another angle:

More on this in my review, below.

The Habs got the score evened, when Brian Flynn scored a beautiful goal. He kept tapping at the puck in front of Henri Lundqvist, until the third try, when it went in.

Flynn left for the dressing room for a while, but returned shortly before the period ended.

The Habs got an opportunity to go ahead when a slashing penalty was called on the Rangers. Instead, they gave up a short-handed goal to J.T. Miller.

It looked like the Habs really let that get away from them and it cannot be blamed on Price, who had nobody from his team to block or defend. On a power play, you expect your team to use that player-advantage to prevail.

The period ended with the Rangers, once again, up by a goal, 3-2.

Third Period: Shots 10-8 Montreal

Goals:

  • Alexei Emelin (Paul Byron, Phillip Danault), 10:53; Max Pacioretty (Zach Redmond), 11:29; Paul Byron (Phillip Danault, Alexei Emelin), 11:55
  • Derek Stepan (Mats Zuccarello, Nick Holden), 14:53

Over half the third period had elapsed before the Habs got back into the game, when Alexei Emelin tied it for the Canadiens.

But the Habs were not done. Within 62 seconds, Emelin, Max Pacioretty, and Paul Byron scored, to give the Habs a 5-3 lead.

With Brian Flynn screening Lundqvist, Emelin took a shot from just inside the zone, to get it into the net. His first goal in 37 games, and it was a beautiful one, as well as the one that got the Habs back into contention.

Pacioretty’s goal came on a breakaway, as he hustled down the ice, splitting two Rangers to take a quick shot to the net.

It was 26 seconds later (Michel Lacroix was still announcing the Pacioretty goal) when Paul Byron got the insurance (and game-winning) goal on this shot when his backhand bounced over Lundqvist and into the net. You can see the video here. What you won’t see is Lundqvist, smashing his stick on the net. He gave up 5 goals in 22 shots this game and was noticeably unhappy.

The Rangers were able to score again, to pull this to a one-goal game, and even after pulling their goalie with 1:43 to go, they didn’t get another goal. Just 30 seconds later, they had to put Lundqvist back in net in order to defend against an offensive face-off, but he was pulled again.

Still, with 6 attackers, they did not find their 5th goal, and the game ended with a nail-biting 5-4 victory for the Habs.

Some Thoughts

Settle in; I have a lot to say about this game.

  • First, Andrew Shaw. I’ll paraphrase Michel Therrien, who basically repeated what we all said after the hit and subsequent ejection: Shaw, who was back after the same kind of hit sent him to the injured list with a concussion, did not target Fast’s head. In fact, Fast was back for the 2nd and 3rd periods. It was a late shot, but nothing close to a game misconduct or ejection from the game.
  • When Shaw was injured, it was a blindsided hit, and his head was targeted. Not only was there no penalty on that play, the league never reviewed it. So it seems very inconsistent of the NHL to be faced with two identical hits, and two opposite reactions.
  • Second – and more infuriating – was the play in which Nash scored while Hayes was busy dragging Price out of the crease. You’ve seen the video. I think even Rangers fans were surprised the goal was not called off.

Here is a freeze-frame of the goal being scored. Keep in mind, Carey Price is being dragged, by his pad, in this shot.

Photo by Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

Here is the NHL explanation of the decision (click the photo to enlarge it – it will open in a new window):

The explanation is that the contact was initiated outside the crease, and therefore does not constitute goaltender interference.  Eric Engels challenges that:

Engels found the rule in the NHL rulebook:

Key to note: “inside or outside of his goal crease”. So, the NHL explanation on this falls short of any degree of satisfaction.

The league seems to be tragically inconsistent on this point, and I had been under the impression they were supposed to be doing more to protect their goaltenders.

I’d like to know how any official – on the ice, in the War Room, or at the NHL Head Offices – can look at the video of Carey Price utterly out of control to move of his own free will, as he’s being dragged unceremoniously away from his net, and not say that was interference – incidental or not.

It’s this kind of inconsistency, this kind of blatant refusal to find a standard and stick to it, or even assess something like this using a rule book, that is infuriating. It takes away from a game when goals are not scored fair and square. If the referees need to consult the rule book (which is readily available), then perhaps there should be one at the timekeeper’s station. Perhaps they’ve forgotten what constitutes goaltender interference.

  • To add to the rant, after Byron’s goal, Sven Andrighetto was penalized for a slash during the play. That’s fine – upon replay, it was clearly a penalty – but later in the game, Alexander Radulov was the victim of a slash that sent him to the bench in pain, but there was absolutely no call on that play.

How do the refs and linesmen – 4 of them in all – miss some, and catch others, on such an unbalanced scale? I get that human error happens. But in this particular game, it was definitively one-sided, by all the officials.

Before you say I’m whining about the officiating – I’m not. I rarely write about it, unless – or until – it’s truly raised its head in blatant, unfair fashion, as it did tonight.

It’s something I’ve questioned often, though; there are reviews of players, even of coaches, at the league level; what kind of retraining, reviewing, or league-instituted meetings do the officials go through, during the course of a season?

Now that the negative stuff is out of the way, let’s focus on the bright spots (besides this win):

  • Phillip Danault. His disallowed goal was the stuff of highlight reels – too bad it was called off. However, with his incredible game in Winnipeg Wednesday night, and 3 assists on Saturday vs. the Rangers, he is more than a rising star; his star is shining brightly. He’s smart, he’s quick, he’s talented, and he’s productive.
  • Paul Byron. Three words: Thank you, Calgary.
  • Max Pacioretty – he scored his 20th goal, an important one, and continues his ascension in the ranks of leaders in the NHL. Was it just a few short weeks ago fans were clamoring for his trade?
  • Carey Price: for those saying he’s struggling – a goaltender is only as good as his team. The Rangers scored a short-handed goal, with a 2-on-1 rush, and nobody in front to help Price. So when the first shot was saved, the second one – too quick for him to get back to stop – went in. Had there been better defense, there’s no question he’d have stopped it.

How do I know? Check this out:

Max Pacioretty was asked about Price’s alleged “struggles” and had the following statement:

I truly believe it when they say Montreal is the toughest city in which to be a goaltender; people are brutal when things don’t go perfectly. Good for Pacioretty, refusing to add to the rumors circulating about his goaltender.

This was a very decisive response to a bad game just two nights ago, when the Minnesota Wild scored 7 to the Habs’ 1. This is the way a team comes back and shows its mettle.

Enjoy it, Habs fans. The team is all about never giving up – so, too, should we be.

Next game is an odd one: Monday afternoon, in Detroit, as the Red Wings host the Habs in a 3:00 p.m. game. It’s a holiday in the USA, so there’s afternoon hockey. That’s not the greatest for those in Canada who work or go to school, but luckily, I will be watching and will bring you a recap after the game is over. Hope you can watch too, another Original Six match-up is always exciting!

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