They say revenge is best served cold, perhaps cold as ice but tonight was not about revenge at all. Coming into tonight the Montreal Canadiens were more focused on getting the win rather than indulge in another goonfest with the Toronto Maple Leafs and that is exactly what happened with tonight’s 5-2 victory. A full 60 minute effort from all four lines contributed to Montreal’s success with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty leading the way with two points each. Tonight also marked the return of Michael Ryder to the Canadiens but would he make an immediate impact?
At the 13:44 mark of the first period Toronto would strike first with Frazer McLaren getting credit for his second goal of the season after redirecting off of Travis Moen’s stick. Tough break for the tough guy. Assists on the play credited to Brown (1) and McClement (5). Unlike the other two meetings between these two rivals the Habs were able to keep focus and stick to their game not allowing Toronto to engage them into any possible penalty trouble. Throughout the majority of the game Montreal was able to keep the puck in the offensive zone with ease keeping Toronto on their heels and chasing the puck rather than control it. Soon after the Leafs took the lead Montreal was able to fire right back with Alexei Emelin utilizing the slap shot from the point which redirected off of Tyler Bozak’s leg and found its way past Ben Scrivens tying the game up at one. Assists on the play credited to Armstrong (3) and Moen (2). It is not often that your fourth line chips in offensively so both teams were thrilled to see production tonight.
After the first 20 minutes Toronto executed their game plan as did Montreal with the Leafs establishing a much more physical game while the Canadiens controlled puck possession and outshot Toronto 11-4. The second frame was more of the same between both teams. First with Mike Brown off for a five minute major for boarding, Max Pacioretty would score probably the easiest goal of his career and his fifth of the season. After stopping P.K Subban’s initial shot Ben Scrivens tried to just swat the puck to the corner however he was unaware of a trolling Max Pacioretty who had the puck slap off his shin guard and into the empty cage. Andrei Markov would also record an assist on the play (7). The lead would stand for just over 11 minutes as Clarke MacArthur would snap the puck past Carey Price for his fifth of the campaign after a nice cycling play by the Leafs after a miscue by Carey Price. Now normally Price is solid with his glove however this time a dump in would bounce of his glove and the Habs were unable to clear which almost always results in a goal. Tough break for Canada’s future number one tender. Assists on the play credited to Kadri (13) and Franson (11). With an impending power play for Toronto transcending into the third period everything was looking up for the Leafs. Unfortunately (for them) the only time they looked up was in disappointment after another goal against.
After killing a possible crippling penalty the Canadiens turned the table on their old foes and this time I am not talking about the Leafs, I am talking about the third period. It all started with a seemingly harmless offensive drive by Josh Gorges who entered the zone and just backhanded the puck to Scrivens. The smart part of this play is that it is simply a pre-set play to the already designed play. Armed with an offensive zone faceoff David Desharnais would win the draw with ease sliding the puck back to Gorges whose point shot was redirected by Brendan Gallagher for his sixth goal of the season. It is great to see Gallagher rewarded for his hard work tonight who was in every puck battle and saw action at both ends of the ice. Tyler Bozak and coach Randy Carlyle attempted to argue the call on when the puck was dropped however Bozak was the only Leaf player who stopped playing once the puck was dropped and that will cost you every time. Less than five minutes later Max Pacioretty would score his second of the game with an absolute laser beating Scrivens high glove side. Ironically, Scrivens holds his glove high but the reaction time was just too slow this time around. David Desharnais recorded his second assist of the game on the play as well. With time winding down and facing a two-goal deficit the Leafs would pull their goalie and with Kessel leading the charge things would surely look positive for Toronto. That was until Kessel dropped the puck for a teammate who was not even there but Habs Captain Brian Gionta was and ended his personal goal drought with an easy pot to the open cage.
Overall, after coming out flat during their last meeting with Toronto the Habs came out executing the same game plan they have been doing all season; puck possession, utilizing their speed and quick transitional play. Tonight’s game was a perfect example of how a team can pull out a win by sticking to their system. For Pacioretty it was a nice exclamation point for him after being the center of the last meeting where he was bitten by former Hab Mikhail Grabovski but this game was not about revenge, it was always about the all important two points. The only “lowlight” (aside from Brown’s boarding hit) was Phaneuf’s head hunting of Brendan Gallagher. At 6’3 214 lbs I found it quite unnerving seeing Toronto’s captain try to bulldoze through all 5’9 178 lbs of Gallagher. Fortunately Gallagher’s presence of mind escaped a possible dangerous hit and possibly his second concussion in less than a month. On a higher note Hab Michael Ryder made his return to the Canadiens lineup and finished with a total of 14:34 TOI with zero shots and was a -1. Playing on the third line this was just a way to get his feet wet as he is unaware of Montreal’s present system and has yet to practice with the team. With tonight’s victory the Habs pad their divisional and conference lead and separates them from ninth place by 10 points. Montreal was also able to push their point streak to nine games and is quickly putting the Eastern Conference on notice that this team is not the same as last season. Up next for the Habs are the Pittsburgh Penguins who will be without Evgeni Malkin who is out with a concussion.
GO HABS GO