The Canadiens probably didn't deserve the win against the Rangers, but it was the first time this year where they really stole one, and it feels great.
Please excuse another short recap. I slept about 4 hours the night of the 18th getting the content for yesterday ready and waking up for a crappy day, and I'm just dead tired.
I was out with some friends for the game last night and for the most part it wasn't a great game. The New York Rangers played a much stronger possession game overall, and blocked most of the Canadiens' shots from dangerous areas, giving Henrik Lundqvist an easy night.
It felt like a long time coming when Anton Stralman opened the scoring for the Rangers on a delayed penalty call against the Habs. The play leading to the goal was a complete disaster. David Desharnais gave everyone an example of the laziest backcheck possible for a hockey player, P.K. Subban took a penalty and then got mad at the referee instead of getting back into the play, Francis Bouillon made an ineffective attempt to block a pass from Derek Stepan, and Erik Cole did... Nothing, Cole did absolutely nothing. Even with all that lapsed coverage, Carey Price managed a brilliant stop on Stralman. It was the rebound attempt that eventually got past him.
It was the kind of goal in the kind of game that begins a blowout loss, but the Canadiens didn't let that happen. Cole redeemed himself with some excellent forechecking that eventually lead to Josh Gorges setting up Max Pacioretty for a one timed snap shot from the high slot that beat Henrik Lundqvist before he had a chance to react.
The goal was big for Pacioretty, who probably needed a "real" goal to fully get his scoring confidence in full gear. That he was able to get one the next game after breaking his slump is a great sign.
Now the team just needs to get Erik Cole going. Cole is a notorious slow starter, but his 2 goals and 2 assists after 16 games is behind Brandon Prust. Last season, Cole had just 3 goals and 3 assists after 16 games, then broke out offensively and doubled his goal and assist totals over the next 4 games. A similar outburst could put the Habs in a heck of a strong position going forward.
The strongest line of the night was the Prust - Eller - Galchenyuk trio, and they were rewarded at the beginning of the third period after an incredible move by Alex Galchenyuk to corral a pass from Lars Eller and send it to Prust. Prust then fed Galchenyuk in front of the net, who beat Lundqvist for the second goal of his NHL career, and 10th point.
The tired Canadiens, on the second half of a back-to-back, then played textbook shutdown hockey as best they could, with Price bailing them out whenever there were lapses.
With the Rangers' net empty and after Tomas Plekanec was sent of for a bogus tripping penalty, Ryan White outmuscled a couple of Rangers in the Habs' zone before Raphael Diaz grabbed the loose puck and scored a shorthanded empty netter. The NHL never gave White an assist on the play, but it sure looked like he deserved one.
The Canadiens are now a ridiculous 11-4-1 after 16 games, the best record in the Eastern Conference. It's unlikely that they can maintain that pace long term, but for now it's extremely sweet to behold. The only major problem going on with the team right now is Michel Therrien's continued misuse of Subban.
Subban was given the least icetime of all defensemen last night, which is a joke. Whether Therrien believes he's sending a message, or whether he believes Subban needs to "earn" something, he needs to wake up. Not playing Subban with Gorges exposes the Canadiens mightily on the road to be outpossessed like they were tonight, and you're not going to score 3 goals on 17 shots very often.
For reaction from the losing side, check out Blueshirt Banter.