It was a night of firsts at the Bell Centre as the Montreal Canadiens downed the visiting St. Louis Blues 3-0 to remain perfect in this young 2015-16 season. Carey Price earned his second shutout of the season with a 38-save effort.
This is the first time the Canadiens have started a season 7-0 in their illustrious 106-year history. The win saw the Canadiens keep a stranglehold on their first-place ranking in the NHL standings. It was also their first matchup against a Western opponent, against whom they are now perfect.
The Blues started the game on the right foot by getting the early shot and chance advantage on the Canadiens. Alexei Emelin caused the fans' hearts to sink by failing on a clearing attempt and delivering the puck right to a perfectly positioned David Backes in the low slot. Backes was primed to give his team the early lead, he snapped the puck top corner but it was plucked out of the air by His Holiness Carey Price before getting the chance to tickle the twine.
It was evident in the first period that the Blues were the best opponent the Habs had faced all season in terms of offensive pressure and prowess. They negated breakouts, established forechecks and worked for solid chances against their league-leading opponents. Price was equal to the task as he made save after save to keep his squad in the game.
Montreal's worst period of the season was winding down when Tomas Plekanec woke up the crowd when he snapped a low shot that Max Pacioretty re-directed past a bewildered Jake Allen. Pacioretty's fifth goal of the season and Plekanec's first assist gave the Habs a 1-0 lead. The goal came after P.K. Subban led the rush from his own zone, weaved through the neutral zone and established a controlled zone entry to give the Canadiens attacking possession.
Tomas Plekanec gets the Habs on the board with this seeing eye goal pic.twitter.com/z4C3sEBpWC— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) October 21, 2015
The goal seemed to revive the Habs' gusto. The tricolore worked the puck with determination in the offensive zone until Alex Galchenyuk took an interference penalty to give the Blues a man-advantage late in the opening frame. Time expired without incident and the Habs closed out the period with the lead despite trailing the Blues 18-23 in shot attempts.
The Blues failed to convert on the remainder of their power play as the second period began, but their best chance came after the penalty expired. Vladimir Tarasenko was poised to finish off a perfect three-on-one play but was Ocean's Elevened by the sprawling arm of Price to keep the Blues off the board.
To continue the trend of firsts at the Bell Centre, Alexander Semin scored his first goal as a Canadien by picking the puck up in slot with his back facing the net, spinning, and sniping a wrister past Allen to give the Habs a 2-0 lead.
Later in the frame the Blues earned a good chance to put the puck past Price as Tom Gilbert was outworked by Steve Ott behind the Habs' net and got nabbed for tripping. The Blues seemed to get on the board by taking advantage of a fruitful bounce that sent the puck straight into a gaping net. Carey Price watched from behind the net (where he was waiting for the dump in) as the man in stripes deemed the puck was played off the curved glass beyond the metal stanchion.
The Habs got a chance to improve their own power play percentage as Joel Edmunson visited the sin bin for cross-checking. The percentage decreased a bit further, however, and that would be it for the notable events of the second period. A lackluster first evolved into a more familiar effort in the second period as the Habs clawed their way from a -5 shot attempt differential to finishing the period even at 40 attempts a piece.
Score effects would be the story of the majority of the third period until the Blues took an ill-timed icing to negate a strong series of scoring chances. St. Louis powered their way to a 60-49 shot attempt advantage before Scott Gomez and Torrey Mitchell met for a draw in the Blues zone. Mitchell won the puck back to Subban who flicked a quick shot on net. Devante Smith-Pelly and Mitchell provided the screen and Mitchell pounced on Jake Allen's rebound to notch his second and give the Habs a 3-0 lead late in the final period.
The game would end with nothing else to report as the Habs left their fans happy for the seventh time in as many games. Perfection.
Though the Blues were clearly the better team throughout the first period, the Habs took the game back to their opponents by relying on their strengths and taking advantage of their chances. Carey Price was stellar (what else is new) and was clearly needed when the Blues came out flying. This team is building the foundation of what could be a special season in Montreal. They'll get the chance to continue doing so Friday night against Buffalo.