The Montreal Candiens showed tonight how a playoff contending team should handle a team begging for points, and riding a five game losing streak.
But missing several of their key roster players, nobody expected an 8-1 pounding of the Minnesota Wild. After coming off a 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers, Jacques Martin's group of veterans and kiddie corps made Sunday's game look like an late 60's -early '70s Habs team thumping of the preceding NHL franchise in Minnesota.
Maybe it was a day off on Saturday, beefed up with the frustration of Friday's performance, or the Wild are just plain awful?
So where do we begin?
It was interesting in watching TSN's telecast of Friday's disastrous game, where Pierre McGuire noted the energy and skill of P.K. Subban. The Canadiens rookie was still playing at 100 percent, midway into the third period, and not giving up the fight. McGuire gave high praise, acknowledging that he will be a huge star in the NHL.
On Sunday, we got a better glimpse of just what this kid can do. Subban finished the night with a hat-trick and an assist, picking up the game's First Star. Subban now leads rookie NHL defensemen in goals and points, and is four goals back of Guy Lapointe's Habs rookie record for goals in a season. He also became the first defensemen to record a three goal game against the Wild in their short history, and the first Habs rearguard to turn the trick since Sheldon Souray in 2003.
Ryan White is making fans wonder why he wasn't called up a lot sooner. The gritty forward opened the scoring, with his first career NHLgoal, just 31 seconds into the game, dropped the gloves, and bagged an assist on Subban's second goal of the game. Though not an official NHL statistic, White becomes the first Montreal Canadiens player to record a "Gordie Howe Hat Trick", since The Hockey News began keeping record of them 15 years ago.
White is the kind of player the NHL needs. He uses the old-school (ie: pre-instigator rule) mentality and jumps to the aid of his teammates when they get targeted. Players like White send a message to the "Ooops I did it again," Matt Cooke's of the world, and chances are the offending player won't try a repeat performance.
Hey, look who came to play. Benoit Pouliot factored in on the first three Canadiens goals, and finished the night +4 on 12:37 of ice time. Was it the chance to play his former team back in Minnesota that spurred him, or just his time to step up and show why he was once a first-round draft pick? With Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty out with injuries, if there were a time for Pouliot to get hot this would be it.
Andrei Kostitsyn continues to be on a tear, picking up his 19th goal of the season and third in four games, and David Desharnais picked up three assists. Apron Basu made an interesting tweet, noting how the Habs rookie forward trails just Skinner, Couture and Grabner in rookie points per game, averaging two minutes less on the ice.
Despite a lopsided score, the Wild had their opportunities to put some pucks in the net. Alex Auld, finishing Friday's game for Carey Price, played a solid 60 minutes, facing 31 shots while having another 27 pucks flung in his general direction. His whitewash was thwarted by Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu's penalty shot goal in the third period. Auld even picked up an assist on the night.
The win gives the Canadiens forty on the season, with nine games to play. They trail the struggling Boston Bruins by a single point for the Northeast Division lead, with Boston holding a game in hand. Last season they had 39 wins in total, just inching to hold onto eight place in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Canadiens will hope to carry the momentum of Sunday's win through the week., where they face Buffalo, Boston and Washington on alternating days.
Sidebar: So you think any NHL team will want to start Jose Thoedore against the Canadiens ever again?
Three Stars: 1 P.K. Subban 2. Ryan White 3. Benoit Pouliot
A humble take on the game, from the other side at Hockey Wilderness