Last night's game between the Blue Jackets and the Canadiens had all the makings of a frustrating result. Montreal controlled the play for the majority of the game, but couldn't manage to beat Sergei Bobrovsky. At times it looked like only a miracle could save them.
The game started on the wrong foot for the Habs, as Kevin Connauton's point shot beat a screened Carey Price, to give the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead on their first shot of the night. Undaunted, the Canadiens carried the play for the rest of the frame, placing 19 shot attempts towards Sergei Bobrovsky.
The primary source of Montreal's scoring chances came from the newly minted Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher line. We'd seen glimpses of Pacioretty and Plekanec's chemistry during their penalty kill assignments, and it was clear from the get-go that their specialty team's success would translate to even-strength scoring opportunities.
It seemed as if the Habs had managed to tie the game, but upon further inspection the puck did not completely cross the red line, and the goal was rightfully disallowed. I can't blame Gallagher for celebrating, considering it was about as close as it could be to a good goal. The second period played out much like the first, with the Habs setting the pace, and generating the best scoring chances of the two teams, yet Bobrovsky would not yield.
Steadfast in their pressure, Montreal continued to pepper Bobrovsky with shots, but it was the Blue Jackets who ended up scoring the second goal of the game. During the powerplay, Ryan Johansen took advantage of a nifty James Wisniewski pass, beating Price short side over the blocker. Columbus had their insurance goal, and things were looking grim for the Canadiens.
They had played one of the best games of the year, yet were facing a shutout loss. The Blue Jackets were content with the loose play in the neutral zone, killing the time with the greatest of ease. Montreal's powerplay had been listless all night, failing to reward the Canadiens for their strong even strength play.
Enter the miracle.
With Matt Calvert serving time for slashing, Montreal's resident sniper turned, fired, and caught Bobrovsky off guard, earning Pacioretty his 19th goal of the year. It was a rare powerplay goal on the road, but it was enough to give Habs fans hope, as Columbus' lead was cut to one.
Jared Boll's highstick on Manny Malhotra gave Montreal a chance to score an unthinkable second road-powerplay goal. P.K. Subban's blast from the point was too much for Bobrovsky to handle.
Not to be outdone by Boll's indiscipline, Brandon Dubinsky decided to take a silly run at Tomas Plekanec, which resulted in a third straight powerplay for the Canadiens. Once again, it was Pacioretty to the rescue, with a sneaky deflection that fooled Bobrovsky, sealing Columbus' fate.
A cursory look at the boxscore would give one the impression that Montreal's powerplay is the main story of this game, and you certainly can't downplay the importance of three straight powerplay goals. Truth be told, it was Montreal's 5 on 5 play that struck me as the most encouraging aspect of the game. Even if they had lost I could have lived with the results, given that it was the sort of performance that's usually rewarded with a win.
In this particular case, the powerplay success balanced out the lack of luck during even strength play. The Habs deserved the win, they just didn't take the usual route to get there.