The Canadiens were able to keep it together this time around, maintaining their lead against the Carolina Hurricanes and winning the game. It was less than a week ago that these two teams faced off, with the Canadiens allowing the Hurricanes to score three goals in under six minutes after they were leading by one goal after two periods.
Carolina came into last night’s game as the hottest team in the league, having won five games in a row before losing to the Canadiens.
It was a fairly slow first period as the two teams played carefully and conservatively to ensure that neither of them gave up any high-quality scoring chances. If there was a team with a slight advantage within the first ten minutes of the game, it would have been the Hurricanes, as they did not allow the Canadiens to spend any extended amount of time in their zone, and their transition game and puck management was superior to Montreal's.
The Hurricanes broke the ice as Elias Lindholm took advantage of the open space to the left of Carey Price, shooting an accurate wrist shot over Price's shoulder and into the top right corner. It was a good display of skill from a player that has been underwhelming to say the least for the Hurricanes ever since being selected fifth overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
That goal did not put a damper on the Canadiens, as they upped their pace and began to more effectively apply pressure in the Hurricanes' zone. It paid off rather quickly, with the line of David Desharnais, Charles Hudon, and Andrew Shaw working well together to force a turnover right outside the offensive zone. It led to a tying goal by Shaw less than two minutes after Lindholm's goal, highlighted by Hudon effectively protecting the puck then placing it right onto Shaw stick blade for a tap-in.
Even though the Canadiens were struggling to take control five-on-five, they could count on their play in special teams to be strong. No shots reached Price on Carolina's first power play after Paul Byron went to the box for high-sticking. Shortly after, on Montreal's turn to go on the man advantage, they were able to create a couple of nice scoring chances as they maintained pressure against the league's top penalty-killing team.
As it was with the first period, the Canadiens took their time getting their feet going and returned to spending a good portion of the start of the period in their own zone. They were only able to muster their first shot of the period at the 4:47 mark, and only recorded the next nearly ten minutes later. Even though shots on goal do not account for everything, when they are that sparse, that is telling.
It was the line of Paul Byron, Alex Galchenyuk, and Alexander Radulov that looked the most dangerous for the Canadiens again, especially during the final minute of the second period in which they continuously retrieved the puck in the offensive zone. With the support of the defensive pairing of Andrei Markov and Jeff Petry, it was the most dominant shift by a Canadiens' five-man unit all night long.
On the day of American Thanksgiving, there was at least one American who was thankful for how things turned out. As much of the talk around him is still about how he is not scoring enough, Max Pacioretty was once again able to put the puck in the net when it mattered most, adding another game-winning goal to his career statistics. Since the 2011-12 season, he places second in this category with 35 game-winning goals, ranking behind only Alex Ovechkin.
It was not the prettiest goal, but with his offensive struggles so far this season, Pacioretty will look to tally more goals in this fashion more often than not.
It was the second game in a row that Pacioretty was reunited with Plekanec and Gallagher; all three players whom are struggling offensively. It should not come as a surprise if this line sticks together for an extended period of time, as the coaching staff will look for these three forwards to support each other and help each other escape from their respective slumps.
Both Cam Ward and Carey Price were the stars of the rest of the third period, as the play opened up and higher-quality scoring chances began to increase. Montreal tried hard to get the insurance goal while Carolina worked to tie the game up. Both goaltenders did their part to keep the score the way it was. The Canadiens did what they had to do and won a close one 2-1.
- It was another very solid game for Charles Hudon. In addition to his strong effort to protect the puck and put it right on to Andrew Shaw's stick blade for the tap-in goal, he was very effective on the forecheck and on the cycle. Hopefully he will finally get his due and stay with the Canadiens after putting in two very good seasons in the AHL with both Hamilton and St. John's.
- The best case scenario for the Canadiens is if Pacioretty, Plekanec, and Gallagher all manage to help each other get out of their scoring slumps, giving the club a more-than-capable shutdown line, and create two very good top lines to work with.
- The game turned out to be the type of contest that is a coach's dream, focused on solid defensive play and both teams keeping things simple. No additional grey hairs for either coach this time.
- Carey Price bounced back after a tough game against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. It seems very doubtful that he will have two bad games in a row, perhaps ever again in his career. Even a relatively straight-forward shot for a goal in the first period didn’t faze him, as he smothered everything else that came his way.
- Even though he did not increase his point total tonight, Alex Galchenyuk is currently tied for third in the league in points per 60 minutes of ice time (out of players who have played at least 10 games). He played for 14:03, seventh among forwards. It is still a wonder why he is not playing more on a game-to-game basis, though Michel Therrien will probably still say that it is due to the way that he is handling Galchenyuk that the young elite is succeeding the way he is. It seems that we don't have any proof to argue against this.
Next up is a road trip into the West, with a stop in Detroit to ease the team into its five-game journey. The Canadiens will face their toughest tests so far this season.