With a nod to Rogatien Vachon in the pre-game and a former fan favourite goalie in Peter Budaj facing off against Montreal, I thought this game was going to be a goalie’s affair.
Thursday night, a high-flying Los Angeles Kings team rolled into Montreal hoping to derail the Habs’ hot start to the season, but Michel Therrien’s team had different plans in mind. From the opening faceoff, it was clear the Canadiens meant to spend as much time as possible in the offensive zone.
After Max Pacioretty used his skating to draw a penalty early in the period, the first power play unit struggled to set up any kind of presence and puck movement. However, once the second unit jumped on, the second half of the man advantage looked better, though still was unable to score.
Prior to the halfway mark of the first, Paul Byron opened the scoring by finishing off a great play by the newly minted first line. Alex Galchenyuk used his size and ferocity to keep a puck alive deep in Kings’ territory, allowing Alexander Radulov a nice charge on Budaj’s net, which he finished by drop-passing to Paul Byron, who was following closely. Byron is definitely making the most of his promotion.
Shortly after Byron’s goal, and a Jeff Petry penalty, Montreal once again took over the flow of the game, pressuring Los Angeles and holding them away from Carey Price.
With just about six minutes left in the period, Torrey Mitchell won the faceoff, drawing the puck back to Andrei Markov, who used all of his veteran wisdom and skill to hold on to the puck while allowing Daniel Carr to get set up down low. They were rewarded with an insurance goal, as Carr tipped in a Markov wrister to extend the lead to 2-0. Carr now has his first of the season, and second point in four games, continuing a trend he began as one of the lone bright spots last year.
The first period was easily the Habs’ best so far, with a complete team effort at both ends of the ice. The result was a 2-0 lead and a 13-6 advantage in shots on net. The trend continued through the middle frame, where the Canadiens continued to apply more pressure to Budaj and did a great job limiting the Kings’ chances.
Carr stood out again the second, using his strength and willingness to go to dirty areas to create havoc for opposing defence as well as extra space for his linemates.
Philip Danault broke the game open with a goal at the game’s mid-point, his fourth of the year. The Victoriaville native was deep in Kings’ territory, screening Budaj while Pacioretty and Petry moved the puck to the net. Danault pounced on a rebound, popping the loose puck past Budaj, who was way out of position.
After the third goal, the game was pretty much out of reach for the Kings. While they did increase the pressure and added more shots in the third period, they were facing the world’s best goaltender, Carey Price, who doesn’t give up three goal leads very often.
True to form, Price was stellar when he needed to be tonight. He also had what looked like some luck early in the game when Anze Kopitar slid a puck through the crease, dangling ever so near to the goal line, but without going in. The opponents turned up the pressure and Price answered the call by stopping all but one of 24 shots on his net, with Tyler Toffoli scoring the lone Kings goal near the twelve minute mark of the third.
The Habs polished the game off with an empty net goal, when Alex Galchenyuk scored his sixth goal of the year, Nathan Beaulieu and Max Pacioretty picked up assists on the ENG.
- Tonight was the best the team has looked early in a game, and they executed until the final whistle.
- True to form, lineup changes may have been confusing but the results can’t be argued with, and the Habs just keep on winning.
- Carey Price was his usual self, but tonight he didn’t necessarily need to be, the team played very well in front of him, and that’s an encouraging sign.