The struggling Montreal Canadiens were already on a three-game losing streak, headed into Sunday afternoon's action. Things didn't look any more promising for the Habs, who had lost five straight games on Suberbowl Sunday.
Both streaks would end however as the Canadiens blanked the Winnipeg Jets 3-0. The win also gets the team out of the Eastern Conference basement, and had to boost the players' confidence, especially following Saturday's loss by the same score to the Washington Capitals. On this night, every one came to play.
"We're in a big hole, and we need to bring it every game," said center Tomas Plekanec, who had a goal and assist on the afternoon. Plekanec and the rest of the Canadiens know the tradition and heritage of the hockey club, and want to give a solid effort the rest of the season. "It's a matter of pride, and there are no quitters," he said.
It's a positive sign, coming from Plekanec, that the players are willing to make an effort, despite the fact that their playoff chances are all but erased. It essentially says that it will be up to Pierre Gauthier to decide whether or not to keep the squad together and play out the season, or see if any buyers are interested.
Carey Price made 23 saves, including several brilliant ones, on the afternoon for his thrird shutout of the season.
The Canadiens first goal came at 18:02 of the first period when Max Pacioretty chipped the puck towards the crease. Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec inadvertently banked the puck into the net off his paddle. It was the 19th goal of the season for the Conneticut native.
Aaron Palushaj picked up an assist on the goal, for his first career NHL point.
Plekanec and the Habs penalty killing untit then set up the team's second goal at 7:20 of the second period. The Canadiens were able to get an odd-man rush, after Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was caught up ice. Plekanec spotted typical stay at home defenceman Alexei Emelin streaking down the left wing. The Habs center put a perfect puck on the Russian rearguard's stick for his second goal of the season.
Emelin added six hits on the night, something he is better known for, and received praise from coach Randy Cunneyworth, noting that Emelin has become more confident and doesn't hesitate as much. His work has been rewarded with more time and responsibility on the ice.
Montreal closed out the scoring with Plekanec potting a rare power play goal just over four minutes later. Many thought that perhaps Scott Gomez had snapped his one-year goal-less slump as he was parked in front of the net. Even Plekanec looked over to Gomez to see if he had possibly tipped it in.
The Canadiens will have the evening to enjoy the Superbowl and then it's back to business. They will play a game every other night, starting Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, until February 22.
Three Stars: 1. Carey Price 2. Tomas Plekanec 3. Alexei Emelin
Jets reaction from Arctic Ice Hockey