USA TODAY Sports
It hasn't always been pretty, but after getting rocked by the Leafs at the Bell Center two weeks ago, the Canadiens have won 6 of 7 and taken 13 of a possible 14 points.
Fans of the New York Rangers are mad. They're really mad. But really, that's to be expected. Ryan McDonagh was just as much at fault for the hit that put him as Max Pacioretty was, but ask yourself how you would react as a Habs fan if P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov both went down in one game, one on a borderline hit.
What if Josh Gorges was already out of the lineup when this happened? How venomous would you be talking to fans of the opposing team who said the borderline hit wasn't dirty? I wouldn't judge Rangers fans too harshly for being homers here. They're in quite the shit situation.
Let's talk about the actual game though, shall we?
The Canadiens seemed to decide that what they did against the Islander wasn't going to work, so instead of having their best first period of possession of the season, they had one of their worst. Firing just two shots on net in the first period, the Canadiens looked slow to pucks and weren't exerting much effort.
Luckily for them, the Rangers are pretty terrible right now, so even though they were better in the first, they never really got much going. Anything they did get going, Carey Price easily stopped.
In the second period, the newly formed line of Lars Eller, Erik Cole, and Alex Galchenyuk took over the game. First Eller sent a shot at the net that a Ranger tried to bat away, only to put it on Erik Cole's stick for his first in 9 games. Due to the Rangers' player getting a stick on the play, the NHL's scorers took away Eller's assist.
Later, Cole sent Eller into the Rangers' zone with the puck, where he pulled a Forsbergian move, creating space for an incoming Galchenyuk before sending him the pass, which he put behind Biron to make it 2-0.
Late in the period on the powerplay, Eller got a goal of his own after a beautiful display of puck movement that had the Bell Centre going crazy, one timing a Galchenyuk pass past Biron with a well placed snap shot. The goal represented the 6th straight powerplay goal that P.K. Subban has had a hand in after he found Galchenyuk open down low. But he sucks on the powerplay according to Pat Hickey so let's bench him.
The game represented a bit of a coming out party for Lars Eller, who has been lights out since being scratched by Michel Therrien for a couple games to start the year. This season Eller has played 2nd line left wing, 4th line center, 3rd line right wing, and now finally 3rd line center, and he's excelled in every position. He's shown the drive and versatility that Michel Therrien was looking for, and scored 9 points in 12 games in the process. Only Brendan Gallagher, Galchenyuk, and Pacioretty have been scoring at a higher even strength rate than Lars Eller's 2.06 points per 60 minutes played.
But scoring is the only improvement Eller has made in his game. In the previous two seasons, Eller's faceoff skills have been way below what you want from a center, 42.4% as a rookie and 46.6% last season. This year though, he's at 49.4%, and is alternating above and below 50% every couple games. There just aren't very many holes in Eller's game these days.
The top line was without Rene Bourque last night as he was out with the flu, but they still had a dominant game with former Ranger Brandon Prust skating on the left side. Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec did most of the work, but Prust was there with them making a few nice plays on the cycle. For a guy with his skill set, it's consistently surprising how good his hands are. Between Plekanec and Gionta, 14 shots were fired at the net, 5 of which hit Biron.
It was a weird game for shots, likely because both teams block shots well and box teams out very efficiently. Both teams only hit the net with 1/3 of their total shot attempts, both teams almost completely even between shots, missed shots, and blocked shots.
In an effort to do something since his team wasn't doing anything on the ice, Tortorella benched Marian Gaborik for the entire third period after he took a bad penalty on P.K. Subban at the end of the second that lead to Eller's goal. Gaborik played fewer minutes than elder statesman Jeff Halpern, and barely more than Stu Bickel.
Price stopped all 17 Rangers shots for his second shutout of the season, maybe the easiest one of his career.
For angry reaction to the loss, check out Blueshirt Banter.