Nathan Beaulieu's debut as a Montreal Canadien had a lot on the line. The Canadiens went into the game up 1 point on the Boston Bruins, with Boston losing earlier that afternoon to Philadelphia. A win would give the Canadiens breathing room for the Bruins' game today against the Sabres.
Also on the line was a season series sweep of the Rangers, who were out for revenge on Max Pacioretty after his boarding hit on Ryan McDonagh that went unsuspended in spite of him leaping from center ice to drop a flying elbow into McDonagh's noggin.
Beaulieu also had the added pressure of playing his first NHL game on Bell Centre ice, which always leads to a bit of shakiness. He managed to play a solid game though, and Therrien rewarded him with nearly 3 more minutes of ice than Jarred Tinordi was given in any of his 6 games.
Not only was Beaulieu given a lot of minutes, but he was given tough ones, starting in the offensive zone just 42.9% of the time. Beaulieu was negative in possession as a result, but most of the team was as well. Beaulieu struggled mightily with possession in the first period, going -8 on Fenwick and Corsi, before rebounding in the final 40 where he went +4 and +2 respectively.
A target for crosschecks all night long, Pacioretty looked like his old self against the Rangers. He was absolutely flying last night, especially in the third period. He couldn't get on the board though, as his puck luck continues to be brutal. Pacioretty lead all Habs with 5 shots, and has hit the net 23 times in his last 4 games though, soon the puck is going to start going in.
As if the lack of a suspension for his hit to the head of Tomas Kopecky has left him invulnerable, Rick Nash ran around last night causing havoc all over. The dirtiest play Nash made on the night was a clear charge of Carey Price within Price's crease. Nash clearly jumped into Price, then after the game pulled the Chara defense by saying "I didn't even know he was there, it's just one of those hockey things".
Really Nash, you didn't know that the Habs' goaltender would be in his crease while you charged into him? Huh.
The hit wouldn't knock Price off his game though, as he shutout the Rangers for the 3rd straight time on Bell Centre ice. The shutout brought Price up to a tie for 7th in the NHL in even strength save percentage, with the only hitch in his game remaining the penalty kill.
Part of the reason the Canadiens may have been outshot so heavily was their efficiency to start the game. Michael Ryder scored on the very first shot in the match on a lucky bounce out in front of Martin Biron, the kind of goal that the Habs were praying for last week.
Jeff Halpern continues to shine, this time against his former team. The veteran center went 65% on faceoffs and insulated the 4th line to the tune of going +2 on scoring chances. This guy was exactly what the Canadiens needed.
Then there's P.K. Subban. Subban's last two games have been astonishing, but a lot of people don't realize that he's played this way for a long time. In the month of March, Subban went +31 in scoring chances in 14 games at even strength. In the first 24 games of the season, the top differential on the Habs D in scoring chances was +11. Subban has nearly tripled that in 14 games. NHL, just give him the Norris Trophy now and save us the wait.
For the view from the losing side, checkout Blueshirt Banter.