The term "character win" is one that is often over-used in hockey. This is not one of those times. Despite being down three of their top skaters, the Montreal Canadiens put up a second stellar effort in two nights, this time beating the Ottawa Senators by a score of 3-1.
When it rains it pours and the Habs injury problems can be likened to a goddamned hail storm. With Lars Eller already out indefinitely, things were compounded when we discovered that Brian Gionta and Max Pacioretty would both be missing the game with the ever mysterious "upper body injuries." In case you were wondering, we have no timeline for either of the newly injured Habs.
It wasn't the same dominance as game one in terms of possession and shots on goal, but the first period still seemed to be following the script of the night before. It took 7:26 into the period before the Sens got a single shot on net, during which time the Habs fired 8 shots on Craig Anderson. While the period ended scoreless, it was looking pretty promising for an injury plagued squad looking to even things up in the series.
Enter the unlikely score-opening hero: Ryan F'n White. White converted on a giveaway by Erik Karlsson in the second period by one-handing the puck through Anderson, giving the Habs the lead. So Karlsson isn't perfect... #KarlssonSucks. White shined in the victory if you ask me. He was physical and gritty but smart, chipped in offensively and was excellent in the chirping game. This was not the Ryan White we've been seeing all year, but the one that I had hoped we'd get at the outset of the season.
Under a minute after White opened the scoring, Brendan Gallagher continued to be awesome, netting his second of the series, once again by going to the net and banging in a back-door feed. Oh yeah, guess who made that back door feed? Yup, Alex Galchenyuk for his second point of these playoffs. The kids are both having a stellar start to the post-season. How about a +10 Fenwick and +9 Corsi for Gallagher on the night, picking up right where he left off in game one. Galchenyuk's stats were slightly less impressive at +6 Fenwick/+1 Corsi, but he was all over the ice and looked really good.
While Price wasn't great in game one, he was absolutely stellar in the second contest. He turned aside 29 of 30 shots, including several beauty saves on the penalty kill. The only goal that got through him was a long screen shot tipped by Milan Michalek midway through the second period, bringing the Sens within one. Price was amazing and even fought through losing a couple chicklets when Guillaume Latendresse (a.k.a Fat Marshmallow prick) threw Jarred Tinordi into him. This performance should help shut up everyone who sent me the Gif. of Happy Gilmore saying "The Price is Wrong, Bitch."
After the Michalek goal I spoke the ever true hockey cliche that "a two goal lead is the worst lead in hockey." Obviously my words were heard through the TV by Michael Ryder. With just over a minute remaining in the period, Ryder snapped an 11 game goalless streak by converting on a Rene Bourque feed to add some insurance for the Habs. Bourque is another guy who has been great in the series so far; and to think we hated him last year...
Guess who else drew an assist on the Ryder goal? P.K. Subban. PK was amazing again last night and it just goes to show that Marc Bergevin committed highway robbery with that bridge deal. We're going to have to pay him a lot of money eventually, and he's going to deserve whatever he gets. His only "mistake" was a deserved cross-checking penalty that probably saved a goal, so he's totally forgiven for it.
The third period followed the game script. The Habs continued to out-chance the Senators, but Anderson stood tall. The three goals the Habs did score were pretty unstoppable; Anderson was very good again and I'm pretty concerned about that. At the other end, Price was solid when he needed to be, including during a last minute flurry whilst the Sens net was empty. As the horn sounded to signal the 3-1 victory, Habs fans in the Bell Centre and across the continent rejoiced in a great win while Ryan White had some words for Marshmallow head.
Brandon Prust was pretty much picked on by the refs in this game. First there was a weak slashing call, then he was clearly boarded by Colin Greening, but got called for covering the puck with his hand while the boarding was ignored. Prust still managed to log an assist and +10 Fenwick/+9 Corsi, so he overcame that anyways and was all over the ice hitting hard. In all, the officiating was exceptionally poor last night, but the Habs fought through some questionable calls to get the win. I mean, Chris Philips tripped Galchenyuk from behind while one ref stared right at it and didn't flinch. I know it's bad to continually harp on the refs but they missed a lot on both sides last night and made some really dumb calls; we better get used to it.
But who am I to complain about officiating when we won the game? This team went out missing 3 of its top skaters and still out-shot, out-possessed and outscored its opponent. Price was near-perfect and the injury stand-ins performed well While Gabriel Dumont barely played, Colby Armstrong and Jeff Halpern played admirably in relief of the injured Habs. Armstrong played over 16 minutes, threw six hits and was +7 Fenwick while Halpern fired 5 shots and was stellar defensively. Jarred Tinordi also had a pretty solid game and I was surprised to see that Francis Bouillon didn't totally suck.
Game three will be Sunday night in Ottawa. Whether we have Gionta and Pacioretty back for that tilt remains to be seen, but we can surely rest easy for now after one hell of a win.
Check out Silver Seven for reaction from the losing side.