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Canadiens vs. Avalanche game recap: The captain buries the visitors

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Max Pacioretty leads the Canadiens to a resounding victory on home ice.

Colorado Avalanche v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The Saturday-night matchup against the Colorado Avalanche marked Jarome Iginla’s 1500th NHL game. Colorado’s captain, Gabe Landeskog, returned to the lineup, while the Canadiens are just beginning a long stint without the services of Alex Galchenyuk, David Desharnais, and Greg Pateryn.

The Avs have struggled this season, entering the night’s tilt with a 10-14-1 record.

The Habs iced a starting lineup of Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, and Alex Radulov, with Shea Weber and Alexei Emelin, and (of course on a Saturday at the Bell Centre) Carey Price.

20161210 5v5SA Corsi Image credit: HockeyStats.ca

They began strong with good offensive-zone pressure and some good looks at Calvin Pickard, who was equal to the task to start the game. However, it was all downhill for the Avalanche goalie after the first few minutes.

Andrighetto continued the Habs’ pressure down low behind the net, tossing the puck to the Gallagher-esque Daniel Carr who tried to squeeze the puck between Pickard and the pipe. Brian Flynn potted the rebound for his first goal of the season, and his first since December 12, 2015. The Habs had a 1-0 lead just three minutes in.

Just over two minutes later, a giveaway at centre ice created a two-on-one with Pacioretty and Radulov. The captain did something we’ve seen too little of lately: rather than making an ill-advised cross-ice pass to Radulov, Pacioretty unleashed his signature wrist shot and ripped it top shelf on Pickard. The goal tied Pacioretty with Galchenyuk for the team lead in goals and provided a bit of optimism for Habs fans everywhere: a hot captain is exactly what the team needs in the absence of their top scoring centre. 2-0 Habs.

Just two minutes after that, Artturi Lehkonen made it 3-0 Montreal after being left all alone in front of the net to receive a pass from Phillip Danault working hard behind the net.

Seven minutes into the first period, the Avs were reeling. Colorado coach Jared Bednar called on his scheduled Sunday starter Semyon Varlamov to relieve Pickard.

The goalie change gave Colorado a bit of a surge as they entertained a moment or two in the Habs end. It was short-lived, however, and soon the Habs were headed back to the Colorado end.

A clean faceoff win to the left of Varlamov by Plekanec led to an Andrei Markov point shot, deftly deflected by the Captain going to the front of the net. 4-0 Habs.

Not 30 seconds later came a familiar sight as of late: a Paul Byron breakaway. 5-0 Habs.

And there were still 51 minutes to play.

Colorado threatened to spice things up a bit when Andrei Markov took a tripping penalty 12 minutes in. It was an idle threat, however, as Montreal easily killed off the penalty.

The theme of the night continued as almost immediately after the Habs completed the penalty kill, Flynn scored his second of the night on a two-on-one with Carr. Not much chance for Varlamov on this one as it deflected off his own defenceman. You have to be good to be lucky. 6-0 Habs.

Montreal didn’t sit back on their lead, as tempting as that may have been. With 90 seconds left in the period, Brendan Gallagher was still pressing hard on the forecheck.

Colorado pressed back though, and Nathan MacKinnon working hard in the Habs end got the puck back to his defenceman, Nikita Zadorov. Zadorov’s point shot was deflected by Blake Comeau to end Price’s shutout bid with 13 seconds left in the first period, cutting the Habs’ lead to just five.

It was a total team effort to start the game as every single Montreal player was on the ice for at least one goal for. The last time the Habs scored six goals in a first period was December 17, 1992 vs the Quebec Nordiques.

Montreal had a chance to restore their six-goal lead early in the second period with a power play when Joe Colborne went off for elbowing Andrew Shaw. While the power play demonstrated some crisp passing throughout the offensive zone, there were few real scoring opportunities and the Avs emerged unscathed.

Things evened out over the course of the second period, the pace a little less frantic and the scoring chances slowing down until halfway through the frame.

Colorado created their own odd-man rush, but Landeskog’s shot was kicked away by Price.

Then Plekanec, engaged in a battle for the puck along the boards, managed to poke the puck to Pacioretty who passed quickly to Radulov alone in front of the net for his sixth the year. 7-1 Habs.

The Habs continued their complete team game as, nearing the end of the second period, Redmond and Beaulieu stayed active with the puck, maintaining possession as the puck was sent up to Plekanec behind the net. Plekanec found an open Radulov at the side of the net who selflessly passed up a scoring chance to push the puck to Pacioretty, equally open in the faceoff dot. Pacioretty unleashed his wrister and sniped the puck past Varlamov for the fifth hat trick of his career. 8-1 Habs.

The Bad Luck Avs continued as Landeskosg took a roughing penalty as he got engaged with Andrew Shaw after a big hit on Zadorov in the corner with 3.3 seconds left in the second. A Jeff Petry point shot right at the buzzer from a Shaw’s faceoff win managed to cross the goal line with 0.1 seconds left on the clock. 9-1 Habs.

With Varlamov slated to start against the Leafs Sunday night, the third began with Calvin Pickard back in goal and the Habs continuing to put the pressure on in the Avs’ zone.

Quickly, this pressure caused Zadorov to flip the puck over the glass seemingly without touching anything. The refs conferred and decided it had somehow been deflected, so there was no call and play resumed at evens.

A little later, a strange bounce in front of the Habs’ net created a chance for the Avs but a quick pokecheck by Price kept the Habs lead at a more comfortable eight goals.

The Habs countered immediately with a few quick chances of their own until an equipment malfunction for Matt Duchene forced an ill-timed change. The Habs took advantage of this momentary man advantage as Torrey Mitchell bee-lined straight for the front of the net, forcing Pickard to make a save he thought he had covered. The puck actually sat open beside him, allowing Pacioretty to jump on the puck and poke it past Pickard for his fourth of the night. 10-1 Habs.

A Pacioretty penalty on a dropped Landeskog stick halfway through the third period gave the Avs a chance to redeem themselves a bit, but other than some speedy skating by MacKinnon, little push was made by the Avs.

Emotions were running high for both teams as the game came to a close. In classic Emelin fashion, a spectacular hipcheck on Joe Colborne along the boards caused Jarome Iginla to fly in to defend his teammate against the clean hit. A minor scrum ensued with the end result a Colorado power play. It was too little too late, as they say, and the Canadiens easily killed off the penalty and closed out the game without further shenanigans.

Thoughts

  • Pacioretty and Radulov were the last two off the ice in warmups, practising passes to each other. They’ve developed chemistry quickly that has already been paying dividends for the Habs. Perhaps Radulov is the spark the Captain needed to catch his season on fire and really get things going.
  • The Canadiens became the first team to give up 10 in one game and score 10 in another during the same season since the Buffalo Sabres in the 2005-06 season. Once they got to six, it felt like they were aiming for 10 and maybe a bit of redemption.
  • Three games ago, the Habs lost their top scorer, two centres, and a steady defenceman for two months. The word across Habsland was everyone needed to step up their game. Consider the last two games your notice that the message was received loud and clear. The team has four lines rolling, three fast defence pairings, two complete 60-minute efforts, and a partridge in a pear tree.
  • Bring on the Bruins.