Every single game, we're learning more about these Montreal Canadiens. One recurring theme this year is that whatever your misgivings after last season, no lead against the Canadiens is safe.
Under Randy Cunneyworth, decimated by injuries, a two goal deficit in the second period would have a lot of us turning off the television. Last night after a dominant first period that yielded no goal, and yet another second period collapse, you couldn't really be blamed for doing the same.
But if you did, you made a serious mistake.
Sometimes in sportswriting the notion of leadership is greatly overstated. Sometimes a single hit is blown out of proportion as a turning point of a game. And then there are nights like last night.
This season a multitude of writers and fans have been on Brian Gionta. He started slow, he didn't seem to have that breakaway speed he's always had. He's done, he's finished, we should trade him.
Down 3-1 on the road going into the third period, the diminutive captain put the Canadiens on his back, scoring to bring the team within one on a crazy goal mouth scramble where it seemed like everyone else has lost sight of the puck, then pulling the puck off of the half boards on the left side, dangling around Matt Carle and sending a pass back to Alexei Emelin, who one-timed the puck past Cedrick Desjardins.
It was a spectacular couple of minutes from Gionta, a performance that changed the game completely. The aging captain now has 5 goals and 6 points in his last 6 games.
But Gionta wasn't alone last night. The game featured excellent performances from several players, including a resurgent Michael Ryder after being benched against Carolina. Ryder notched helpers on both goals that Gionta was in on, and lead all players with 5 shots and 7 shot attempts. Ryder has yet to score with the Habs, but he's been a point per game player with them, and has 5 points in his last 4 games.
And how about Emelin? The big Russian tank had just 7 points in 67 games last season, but as so many defensemen have before him, he's flourishing with the talented Andrei Markov, and has 6 points in his last 6 games.
Oddly enough, the most dominant line of the night is the one that didn't factor in on the scoresheet. Lars Eller, Brandon Prust, and Alex Galchenyuk were on the puck all night, with Eller being particularly effective. The only result they got though, was Prust falling awkwardly into the boards on a rush to negate an icing call.
Prust clearly injured his left shoulder on the play, although he said on his official twitter account late last night that he would be back soon. Later on, TVA Sports announced that he would be out for a week. And it may be the best possible time to miss a week of action, with a bit of a break in the Canadiens' schedule coming up. After tonight's game against the Panthers, the Habs have just two games over the next 8 days.
Head on over to Raw Charge for reaction from the losing side.