Nikita Scherbak, Michael McCarron Lift Habs To 5-3 Win Vs Leafs

Photo by Claus Andersen / Getty Images

Nikita Scherbak, Michael McCarron Lift Habs To 5-3 Win Vs Leafs

Nikita Scherbak and Michael McCarron lifted the Habs to a 5-3 win over the Leafs in Toronto Saturday night as they each scored their season’s first NHL goals. The two rookies had fellow rookie Artturi Lehkonen join them in the goal-scoring circle, with Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov being the two pros who scored in the game.

The Habs had an extremely strong start, and despite giving up a 2-goal lead, they rallied, held off the Leafs, and never trailed once. The final score reflects the tenacity of this team, missing so many of its strong regulars to injury, but continuing to fight for every point.

Never “needless to say,” Carey Price came up with huge saves and had another solid performance in nets.

The Habs were outshot 36-31, but came up big on the scoreboard.

Here’s how the game unfolded.

First Period: Shots 11-10 Montreal

Goals:

  • Max Pacioretty (Alexander Radulov, Shea Weber), 00:20; Artturi Lehkonen (Tomas Plekanec, Jeff Petry), 3:47; Nikita Scherbak (PPG; Jeff Petry), 19:59
  • Tyler Bozak (Mitchell Marner, James van Riemsdyk), 8:25; Nazem Kadri (PPG; Mitchell Marner, James van Riemsdyk), 16:01

The Habs wasted no time, with Max Pacioretty scoring the first goal at 20 seconds into the period. With a pass from Alexander Radulov, who took the puck from Shea Weber, skated around the back of the net, and passed it to Pacioretty, who scored.

At 3:47, Artturi Lehkonen put the Habs up 2-0, with a wrist shot that went past Frederik Andersen‘s arm and into the net.

(Here is a view of the goal NOT taken by the ref’s GoPro)

The Leafs got back into the game at 8:25, when they cut the Habs’ lead in half, and then tied it with a power-play goal (on a soft call against Radulov).

With less than 2 minutes to the end of the period, the Habs got their first power play. And it was Nikita Scherbak – called up for the first time this season, and in his first NHL game – who got the power-play goal with just a second left on the clock:

The referee immediately retrieved the puck and handed it to a coach behind the Habs bench, for Scherbak’s souvenir.

P:hoto by Mark Blinch / NHLI via Getty Images

Second Period: 11-8 Toronto

Goals:

  • Alexander Radulov (PPG; Shea Weber, Nathan Beaulieu), 00:36
  • James van Riemsdyk (Mitchell Marner, Nikita Zaitsev), 18:15

Once again, the period was marked by a quick Habs goal, this time by Radulov on a power play. While Radulov and Weber get the credit for those moves, watch Mike McCarron; he uses his size to effectively screen Andersen on this play so beautifully, there was no way Andersen could predict what would happen next.

At the halfway point of the second period, a double fight broke out: Michael McCarron against Matt Martin, and Bobby Farnham against Frederik Gauthier. It went on for a while, and resulted in only one penalty for each team, offset.

When it was over, however, this happened – an unusual show of mutual respect:

https://twitter.com/waytogopaul/status/817907147354869760?refsrc=email&s=11

At 12:48, Zach Hyman went careening over Carey Price (Price’s helmet came off), and had Shea Weber not stepped in to defend his goaltender, Price seemed ready to put his blocker to work (we all remember Price vs Kyle Palmieri, don’t we?).

Hyman sat for 2 minutes, but the Habs power play was dismal.

With a little over a minute left in the period, Toronto pulled to within 1 of the Habs. Despite another power play, the score remained 4-3.

Third Period: Shots 15-12 Toronto

Goal: Michael McCarron (Daniel Carr), 3:51

The period began with both teams killing off penalties, and once they were full strength again, Michael McCarron put one past Andersen to widen the Habs’ lead to 5-3. This was also McCarron’s first NHL goal this season, and he banked it off Andersen at a (near) impossible angle:

As the above tweet points out, with his goal, assist, and fight, McCarron completed the proverbial Gordie Howe Hat Trick.

The game became tense and contentious from that moment on. There was a lot of hockey left to play, and both teams were showing the kind of desperate energy needed to win it.

However, even though Andersen was pulled with almost 3 minutes to go, and Weber took a penalty with a minute left, the Leafs could not seal the deal, and the Canadiens won their 13th straight against Toronto.

Some Thoughts

This team is sporting a lot of bruises; with injuries piling up, the Canadiens are severely depleted of their pro talent. Looking at their record, though, it is not hampering them a bit.

Seven regulars are injured, and yet, even with their star player in Auston Matthews (who was rather invisible Saturday evening), the Leafs could not beat this Canadiens force.

  • McCarron, Scherbak, and Lehkonen completed a triumverate of rookies who scored on Frederik Andersen. That shows the depth of the Habs, and the future of this team. It also shows that chemistry is present even with guys who did not start the season together, and it says a lot for the coaching staff (okay, Michel Therrien haters, have at it).
  • Speaking of Therrien – he recorded his 400th NHL career win as a coach in this game. A sweet milestone to win it in Toronto, home of one of the team’s biggest arch rivals.
  • Tomas Plekanec – the rumors are flying. He’s not the player he has been in past seasons. It’s a concern, because trade deadline is a couple of months away, and with Las Vegas getting a team at the end of this season, he may not be protected by the Canadiens – should he still be in the bleu-blanc-rouge by July. Time will tell, but it would be good to see him start lighting it up out there.
  • Max Pacioretty – also fodder for the rumor mill – has been on fire lately. Playing 28 minutes in this game alone, he scored his 19th goal in this game. He had only 5 goals as of the beginning of December. He spent November nursing a fractured foot – but still playing – and is now unstoppable. I hope the rumors stop flying about him now.
  • Contrary to what many are saying, Alexei Emelin did not push Hyman into Price. You can watch the video here:

Emelin’s stick was out, and unfortunately, Sportsnet’s video displays some bias. When slowed down, it looks as if Emelin had “launched” Hyman into Price, but think about it. Alexei Emelin was gunning, hard, for the net, trying to save a goal. At that speed, it’s easy to lose control. He, too, went careening into the boards.

And think a little harder: would Emelin do anything to put his star goaltender at risk? He’s a smart player, and he’s improved the most of all Habs this season. I have no doubt he had no intention of “launching” anyone into Price. Especially knowing what the ramifications could be, should the worst happen.

  • Price’s saves were – as always – ridiculously jaw-dropping feats of skill; here is one, for example:

  • The long month of road games (7 games starting December 23rd) yielded a 4-2-1 result. Definitely better than past seasons, and nowhere near the “slump” we’d heard rumblings of in past weeks.
  • These Habs are for real. If they can rally, play the game they played Saturday, and do so with 7 of their strongest players on the injured list, you can bet they are the real deal.

They come home to the Bell Centre now, playing the Capitals on Monday, January 9th. It should be another exciting one to watch. Puck drop is 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

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