It's March 16, and the Montreal Canadiens are in Buffalo to play the Sabres; it's the town where Thomas Vanek began his NHL career, and he greets some old friends. Goalie coach Stephane Waite preps young Dustin Tokarski for his start in the game. Assistant coach Gerard Gallant reminds the boys of the obvious - every game is huge now; there are only 14 left in the season.
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Puck drop, and early in, forward Dale Weise gets a goal that gets reviewed, though on the bench he knows it's good, having not kicked it in but deflected it with his knee. The call on the ice stands. 1-0 Habs. Less than two minutes later, Brendan Gallagher scores again for the Habs. At first intermission, head coach Michel Therrien reminds the boys about maintaining their emotion. In the second, Gallagher in true Gallagher style goes driving to the net and gets upended, flying into Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth, who gets shaken and must leave the game, with replacement Nathan Lieuwen taking his place. The Habs on the bench talk about how it's Lieuwen's "first game ever". Gallant tells Pleky to shoot, because he's gotta be nervous. They then go on to split hairs about his saves, wishing they hadn't given Lieuwen his first save ever. In the third, Lieuwen continues to make the saves, but this is already done; and hey, Dustin Tokarski gets his first shutout for the Habs, not too shabby for the Habby.
Back at the Bell Centre, we meet Geoff Gordon, in charge of the netcams, and he tells us that the system dates back to the Lillehammer Olympics, and tells us about the importance of operating them carefully and getting the footage while also hoping the camera doesn't get destroyed by pucks. It's all very cool, especially when he describes the 360 degree shots that we all take for granted at home that are so valuable.
It's March 18, and the Colorado Avalanche are in town. It's head coach Patrick Roy's first visit to the Bell Centre for a game as their coach after winning two Stanley Cups as a Montreal Canadien. At the team meeting, Therrien seemingly underplays all the hype preceding this meeting, merely telling the boys, "it's gonna be a fun game to play."
Before the game, Patrick Roy gets his crowd recognition with an ovation during the anthems, then business gets underway. After a scoreless 18 minutes, the Avalanche get one past goalie Carey Price to make their coach proud in this all-important game for him. At first intermission, Daniel Briere and David Desharnais talk about the Avalanche's Nathan MacKinnon, the game's only scorer thus far, and his sick hands.
On to the second. Five and a half minutes in, Max Pacioretty gets a lame slashing penalty, and we get some behind-the-scenes of Geoff Gordon manning his goal camera from his control centre, happy that he doesn't have to go onto the ice for any readjustments. We also are reminded that referees have names too, as Max chirps, "hey, Justin," to one of the guys in a striped shirt, to maybe have a look at the replay on the call as he would change his mind, but of course Justin disagrees. It's all good though, because after killing the penalty, Thomas Vanek scores his first goal as a Hab, tying the score at one. Colorado quickly rains on that parade though, scoring again to retake the lead. And then Travis Moen makes a pretty spinorama goal to tie it again, and it's a lot of fun at the Bell Centre. Okay, maybe not for Patrick. The second period ends in a 2-2 tie.
In the third, another fourth-liner scores, with Brandon Prust putting one in that even he can't believe. 3-2 Habs with the lead for the first time in the game. Then the Avalanche ruin things again by tying it again, but Vanek ruins things for them by scoring his second of the game, and for good measure deflects another shot for a hat trick that seemingly no one in the Bell Centre realizes he scores, but eventually some do and a hat or two rains down to the ice but who cares, a new hero is born. 5-3 Habs. Patrick Roy pulls his goalie from the net and Dale Weise scores the empty-netter to double Roy's Avalanche in their first visit to the Bell Centre and their coach's much ballyhooed return to Montreal with a 6-3 victory, and what many hope will be Thomas Vanek's delight to be in this city to never want to leave. Vanek, of course, is awarded the first star of the game.
In the next scene, the 24CH cameras are on the road again, this time to visit Peter Budaj's picturesque hometown of Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, where we meet lookalikes brother and father Jozef and Jozef. We're taken around the city, and even the taxis have Budaj's jersey hanging from suction cups on their windows. We meet Budaj's mom, Lubica Budajova, which my superior deductive powers tell me is Budaj's real, full surname. Peter tells us that hockey was a passion of his father's, and then brother Jozef cements a piece of my heart with Budaj's name on it by telling us that as a little boy playing hockey, Peter had a maple leaf on his helmet because he loved Canada so much, and that Peter's dream even as a boy was to be a goalie, and to play in Canada. We're also treated to scenes of brother Jozef playing some soccer with kids to the narration of Peter describing Jozef's soccer prowess, and he is definitely incredibly nifty with the soccer ball, as is father Jozef. It seems as though this soccer family was surprised by Peter's skill in and devotion to hockey, but as a family does, recognized and supported his hockey dream, taking him back and forth to practices following violin lessons. Violin! How very interesting is our Peter Budaj! And for this loving and supportive family, it was a dream come true that Peter made it to the NHL, and, "especially to become a part of the great organization in hockey, Montreal Canadiens." It's obvious that Peter is incredibly appreciative of his blessings and takes nothing for granted. The Jozefs end by giving the cameras a thumbs-up with their wish for the Stanley Cup in Montreal, and I officially want to move to Slovakia and be adopted by the Budajs.
On March 20 and ahead of the Canadiens' next meeting with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the 24CH cameras are back in Montreal to hang out with John Bartlett and Sergio Momesso of TSN 690 radio's play-by-play broadcast team. Bartlett shows us his tribute to departed and beloved broadcaster Danny Gallivan as well as icon Dick Irvin on the Bell Centre booth's wall, "honouring the tradition of the seat." Momesso says he doesn't consider himself "total media" because he's still an ex-player first, not caring about "scoops" but merely talking about what's happening in the game. Bartlett says, "it's hockey, it's meant to be fun."
It's time for the game, and to John Bartlett and Sergio Momesso's narration the game gets underway. Brendan Gallagher gets the game's opening goal, which he celebrates with a smile from a sitting-down position. Precisely one minute later, the CBJs tie it up though. Pacioretty gets cross-checked and upended by a CBJ. (Sidebar: you'll note that I don't mention names on an opposing team when I decide I dislike an individual. This is not unintentional. When you see someone referred to as a number or position or just a team name, you'll know I hate them, or at least I temporarily do until I forget about them completely.) Pacioretty takes exception to this player's shenanigans, and gets into a fight. I know! After the fight, Patch leaves the ice and goes to get checked out by the medical team, not before getting a fist-bump from a grinning Brandon Prust.
In the second, the CBJs score to take the lead and that's all that happens. At intermission, Gallant tells the boys that they've been outplayed for two periods, however the good news is Price has been hot, and then he ends by reminding them how many games they have left in the season, like their sad-trombone game-countdown Count from Sesame Street. "Twelve! Twelve games! Wa, wa."
In the third, Vanek quickly ties the game up for the Habs, and then Gallagher loses a blade on his skate and valiantly and comically tries to keep skating and playing, to the amusement of Bartlett and Momesso. Gally then needs to be dragged to the bench because he can't skate himself off. He gets his skate changed and all is well once again. Soon though, Ryan Johansen (who by being named I obviously have no issue with) scores the game-winner for the Blue Jackets after a turnover by Jarred Tinordi. We see from the close-ups and helmet-throwing of Tinordi in the dressing room that he clearly is upset with himself, and he gets a few supportive taps from teammates. We've all been there. It's called learning. Can't do that without making mistakes. The narrator underlines this by telling us that this is how good hockey players develop character.