Solid Effort Pays Off For Habs In 4-1 Win vs Kings

Photo by Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

Solid Effort Pays Off For Habs In 4-1 Win vs Kings

A solid effort pays off for the Habs as they beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 Thursday night, as the team played what was inarguably one of its best games this season. There were line-up changes too.

Shockwaves went through social media as it was announced that Sven Andrighetto was taking the place of David Desharnais Thursday night. We can count on one hand the number of times Michel Therrien has scratched Desharnais, but here it was. As well, Joel Hanley was on the blue line in place of Greg Pateryn.

Facing Carey Price at the other end was former Habs back-up goaltender, Peter Budaj, whose record with the Kings this season has been a perfectly respectable 7-3.

The game started off strong, and as we’d seen in the first part of this season, it was a consistent push through 60 minutes of continuous effort. All in all, a great night of hockey (at least for Habs fans).

First Period: Shots 13-7 Montreal

Goals: Paul Byron (Alexander Radulov, Alexei Emelin), 7:48; Daniel Carr (Andrei Markov, Torrey Mitchell), 13:53

In what has already been deemed the best first period of this season for the Habs, energy was high, shots were constant, battles were won, and goals were scored as a result.

The period started and it was evident that the Habs were determined to return to playing successful, strong hockey as they had in the beginning of the season. Whatever it was, it worked. At 7:48 of the first period, Paul Byron scored on Budaj. But it was Alexander Radulov who did all the work.

Battling to keep possession, Radulov dodged the Kings players trying to knock him off the puck, pivoting, changing direction, and succeeding. Then, right in front of Budaj, as Radulov was almost beaten, he passed to Byron who went top-shelf over Budaj’s shoulder. Watch #47. Be amazed.

 

With 6 minutes till the end of the period, Torrey Mitchell took – and won – the face-off, passing the puck to Andrei Markov. Markov took a shot on net, Daniel Carr tipped it in, and the 2nd goal was scored.

Rarely do the Habs benefit from a face-off goal, but this time it was pitch perfect.

They didn’t just hold onto this lead, or sit back on it – the Habs played strong hockey throughout the first frame, to go into first intermission with a 2-0 lead.

Second Period: 7-5 Los Angeles

Goal: Phillip Danault (Jeff Petry, Max Pacioretty), 9:37

The Habs’ third goal was scored with almost half the period gone. It was a flukey goal, too.

With the Habs attacking the net, Kings forward Nick Shore went to the crease to support Budaj. Unfortunately (for the Kings), Shore’s skate caught in Budaj’s, tripping the goaltender and leaving the net vulnerable. Phillip Danault took advantage, and with a beautiful shot from the side of the net, scored the 3rd.

You can see Budaj talking to the referee; it’s likely he was trying to make a case for interference, but as it was his own player, the ref was having none of it.

The remainder of the middle frame was just as strong as the first half of the game had been: Habs attacking, Price making those big saves, defense on track to clear the puck, and though the shot count was slightly more advantageous on the Kings’ side, the Habs had a solid second period.

Third Period: Shots 11-5 Los Angeles

Goals:

  • Tyler Toffoli (PPG; Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter), 11:57
  • Alex Galchenyuk (ENG; Nathan Beaulieu, Max Pacioretty), 18:11

Third period yielded more of the same – consistent play, battling against a desperate Los Angeles team, and winning the battles.

At 9:17, Brendan Gallagher took a double minor for high-sticking and a good opportunity for the Kings to narrow the gap; in fact, all they did was get on the board. It was 30 seconds into the 2nd half of the penalty that Tyler Toffoli busted Price’s shutout.

It was bound to happen. Tested incessantly, Price had just made a sprawling save on Anze Kopitar (one of those saves that has the crowd gasping – see below), but the Kings were on the attack and Toffoli managed to score.

They got no further goals; the Habs got an empty-netter to add insult to injury, and the game ended with a 4-1 win for the Canadiens.

Some Thoughts

  • Can we just admit that Carey Price has magic beyond the human realm?

  • The pairing of two Alexanders: Galchenyuk and Radulov. That is a match made in hockey heaven. Together, they are a force to be reckoned with, continuously coming up with clutch plays and scoring/assisting together.

In his post-game presser, Michel Therrien addressed how well they play together:

  • Paul Byron: a miracle for the Habs. When he was picked up on waivers, there were two emotions: despair from Calgary Flames fans, and hope from Habs fans. That hope turned to astonishment, mainly that Calgary had put him on waivers in the first place.

The first season he was with the team, many of us tweeted – almost every game – our thanks to Calgary. He scored often in his first few games with the Habs, becoming known as a short-handed-goal scorer.

Byron scored the all-important game-winning goal just this Tuesday night, when the Habs beat the Bruins 3-2. And he opened the scoring Thursday night against the Kings.

So once again – thank you Calgary, for our Paul Byron!

Fun celebrity appearance: actor Ben Stiller was in the stands. Likely not a Habs fan, but he looked like he was enjoying the game (when he was shown in the early part of it – I’m not sure he left with as big a smile)

Screenshot: Lissa Albert

Screenshot: Lissa Albert

  • Penalties: once again, the Habs gave up a goal on a penalty (thank goodness it was just one, as the penalty was a double-minor). Truly crucial for the team to stay disciplined.

However, there were a lot of non-calls on L.A., like this blatantly dirty hit on Alexei Emelin by Dustin Brown:

While the Canadiens need to take care of staying discipline, the league needs to get more consistent in their calls against every team.

  • This was, quite possibly, one of the strongest games we’ve seen the Canadiens play not just this season, but including last season as well. Against a big team like L.A., up against a goaltender who had previously recorded two shut-outs in his last two games, and having struggled to not only outshoot their opponents but score to maintain comfortable leads of late, this was a game that had everything good. A return to confident and impressive effort.
  • I know fans tend to panic when there’s a loss. Or a squeaker. Or a nail-biter. But I’m also hoping this game gave the fan base a lot more confidence that this team is for real, they are out to win, and they’re at 12-1-1, with 25 points out of a possible 28 so far this season.

Folks, that’s spectacular. It’s even more remarkable that the team with the next-highest points in the division is Tampa Bay, with 17.

Comfortable? You should be. This Canadiens team is keeping the machine moving forward, onward, and upward.

Next game is Saturday night, against the Detroit Red Wings. A true Original-Six match-up, and it will be exciting. Puck drops at 7 p.m.

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