We were treated to a goaltending battle for the ages last night, and just like during the Olympics, it was Carey Price who reigned supreme despite a great effort by Henrik Lundqvist.
It was an encouraging win for the Canadiens, who have struggled to pair a strong possession game to their recent wins. Except for their usual tough start, Montreal carried the play for impressive stretches, which led to a very exciting, albeit low-scoring affair.
The first period was especially chippy, as both teams eagerly renewed hostilities stemming from their recent playoff series. Chris Kreider and P.K. Subban were at the centre of it all, although you'd be hard pressed to accuse Subban of indiscipline. The original scuffle involved a phantom embellishment call and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Kreider, who had apparently missed his nap earlier in the day. The two followed it up by immediately returning to the box, and Subban was once again treated to what can only be described as shenanigans from the referees. To be fair, the zebras were awful for both teams, a recurring theme in the NHL.
The Canadiens responded very well to the Rangers' aggressive style of play, concentrating on producing scoring chances rather than looking for retaliation. It almost paid off for Dale Weise, who happens to be the player I referred to as "not first line material" yesterday. Weise arguably had his best game of the year, and did absolutely everything he could to open the scoring, but was shut down by the lack of a clear angle.
Does anyone else find it crazy that in 2015 the best the NHL can do is a 240p resolution on the overhead camera? With all their high definition equipment, why is one of the most crucial angles being filmed with a potato?
Despite the goal being disallowed, Montreal did not let up, and continued to do a good job creating quality scoring chances. The first line in particular was excellent, as was the fourth. It's rare that Manny Malhotra will finish the game without a negative Corsi For%, but tonight he managed to put up an even 50% CF. Christian Thomas and Michael Bournival played very well in their limited minutes, as did Jiri Sekac and David Desharnais.
Among the defencemen, it was a solid evening for Tom Gilbert, who managed to finish with a +10 Corsi, tops among all defenders, even though he only started 11% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Alexei Emelin, for all his faults, also had a strong showing. We don't get to compliment that pairing very often, so we should probably enjoy the moment.
We're used to complimenting P.K. Subban for his strong play, and last night was no exception. Despite the sketchy penalties, Subban did his best to avoid getting in any dirty pool. His defensive prowess was on full display as well, providing key blocks on the penalty kill, and quick zone exits when required.
As the game went on, it became apparent that it would take a bit of luck by either goalie, and it was Max Pacioretty who obliged, beating Lundqvist on screened shot, and consequently earning him his fourth game-winning goal of the season.
It took a bit of luck, and a few great saves by Carey Price, most notably his robbery of Rick Nash during a breakaway, but the Canadiens came away from New York with two very well-deserved points.
To sum it up, the Habs put together one of their best efforts of the year, despite only scoring one goal. They demonstrated a lot of sustained pressure, and created a plethora of quality scoring chances. It was a good team effort, and one that the Canadiens can look to build on, as they're back at it on Saturday afternoon, facing the Washington Capitals at the Bell Centre.