The Montreal Canadiens were host to the surging Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. The Wild had won their last eight games before heading into the Bell Centre and, as expected, it was another hard-fought battle for the Habs.
Injury has plagued the Canadiens this season, and an already-thin blue line faced some more bad news when it was announced that Andrei Markov would be transferred to IR. Though this isn’t a bad move for the aging defenseman, allowing him to fully rest up over the holidays, it does put a bit more pressure on the young guns.
Alexei Emelin was also out due to the birth of his third child. A hearty congratulations to the Emelin family on their latest addition.
The Canadiens, famous for their slow starts, created solid sustained pressure through the first period. This was in many ways due to some excellent work by Mark Barberio, who made a few great pinching plays to keep the puck active in the offensive zone.
Jeff Petry appeared to block a shot off the inside of his right knee and favoured that leg when leaving the ice. For certain, all Habs fans felt their hearts sink at that exact moment, but thankfully Petry did play a regulat shift for the remainder of the game.
At the end of the first period, the Wild led Montreal in shots on goal 13-11. Both teams were awarded a power play which neither capitalized on, keeping the score at 0-0.
The second period proved much more exciting, with the action starting early. Brendan Gallagher was called for slashing just 1:26 in and the Habs headed right to the penalty kill. Pacioretty continued his scoring streak by swinging up the ice on a short-handed rush and letting go of a beautiful shot for the first goal of the game.
The Wild had not allowed a short-handed goal yet this season. With his ninth goal in his last nine games, Pacioretty has now tied Patrice Brisebois for 37th in all-time points with the Canadiens. Shea Weber notched an assist on the goal, getting his first point so far this month.
The lead wouldn’t last long, with Jordan Schroeder putting the puck in short side. Price surely wanted this one back, as his giveaway on a an attempted pass led directly to the scoring chance.
Just three minutes later, Artturi Lehkonen scored off of the rebound getting his seventh of the season. Lehkonen has excellent puck control for such a young player and he continues to shine this season.
Not to be outdone, the Wild answered with a faceoff win and a quick cross-ice pass to Jared Spurgeon who tied the game at two apiece. Tempers flared as the period came to a close. Shots were 26-21 in favour of Montreal.
A questionable high-sticking call on Charlie Coyle sent Montreal to the power play for the second time. Eric Staal was the one to capitalize, however, as a poor attempt to hold the line by Barberio led to a partial breakaway for the veteran.
Price left the net with just under two minutes left in the game, but the Canadiens were unsuccessful in tying things up. The Minnesota Wild scored an empty-net goal to take the game 4-2, despite Montreal holding an edge in shots, 34-27. It was the Wild’s ninth victory in a row.
- While I love seeing some new plays on the power play, it begs the question: is Shea Weber injured? He certainly couldn’t have maintained the numbers he set at the start of the season, but Weber has drastically slowed down as of late.
- The power play is still struggling and the Canadiens are only 3/30 in their last eight games.
- Nathan Beaulieu and Mark Barberio (despite that one bad pinch) had excellent nights, showing that the future of the blue line is in good hands.
On Friday night, the Habs face the first-overall Columbus Blue Jackets, and look for some redemption from their last meeting.