It was not surprising that the Blackhawks would be battling tonight, barely hanging on to eight place in the Western Conference. The defending Stanley Cup champions did just that, playing aggressively and firing 43 shots at Carey Price.
The Canadiens goaltender, setting afranchise record with his 71st appearance this season, was certainly up for the test and showed no evidence or tiring through sixty minutes.
The real test came in the third period where Price faced 20 shots, including seven during Blackhawks power play. With little offence to support him, the question will be whether the Canadiens' Molson Cup winner can carry his team through at least one round of playoff hockey.
At the opposite end of the rink, Montreal native Corey Crawford was equally impressive. The Blackhawks rookie made 33 saves in his hometown debut, and kept his team in it through the first period. As great a night Crawford had, the fan voting did not gove him a Three Star selection.
After a scoreless first period, the Canadiens got on the board first, at 6:55 of the second period. Mike Cammalleri took a perfect feed from Andrei Kostitsyn and his shot deflected of Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook and past Crawford.
Patrick Kaneresponded at 10:05, making some dazzle moves around the Canadiens defensive perimeter before rifling a wrist shot past Price.
From there on it was a goaltenders duel, with the game going back and forth at both ends. The visitors had a more organized attack, and it pressed harder as the game progressed.
The battle between Price and Crawford was reminiscent of a playoff matchup between Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall that happened 50 years ago last week. In this case, the Canadiens would be on the winning side.
Much like that epic goaltending display, it was a tripping call in overtime that would be the turning point on this night. P.K. Subban, who had been doing a spectacular job of battling Jonathan Toewsall night, would be the catalyst to victory. In the extra time, Subban managed to thwart a Toews breakaway attempt and in the process drew a tripping call.
With the Canadiens on the power play the rookie defenseman put the game away with a shot that went top corner on Crawford. Subbanskated in celebration to his goaltender, gave him a "hip check" and crashed to the ground with excitement.
As the Habs celebrated, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenville wasfurious with the officials. But unlike Toe Blake in 1961, he didn't pop the referee.
The win gives the Canadiens 93 points, maintaining 6th place in the conference and one point ahead of the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres win, earlier in the evening, officially put the Toronto Maple Leafs out of the playoff running.
Montreal's remaining two games on the road will now decide where they finish, and who they play in the post season.
Three Stars: 1. P.K. Subban 2. Carey Price 3. Mike Cammalleri
Reaction from Second City Hockey
|06:55 MTL||Michael Cammalleri, 18 (Andrei Kostitsyn, 23 Paul Mara, 5) (CHI: 17 82 2 7 50 16 MTL: 55 22 13 14 46 31)|
|10:05 CHI||Patrick Kane, 27 (Troy Brouwer, 19 Brent Seabrook, 37) (CHI: 51 2 50 22 67 88 MTL: 44 11 21 52 20 31)|
|01:19 MTL||P.k. Subban, 14 (PP) (Andrei Kostitsyn, 24 Michael Cammalleri, 28) (CHI: 2 7 50 28 MTL: 13 20 46 31 76)|