1. Vasilevskiy’s puck handling is suspect
Carey Price is a notoriously good puck-handling goalie. Andrei Vasilevskiy? Well, it still needs a little work. The lightning fast Montreal team caught the Tampa net minder behind the net twice in the first period alone, and the Habs made no mistake in making them pay on Vasilevskiy’s first dawdle with the puck. Paul Byron swooped in early in the first period to steal the puck off Vasi’s stick, sending it flying over to a hungry, waiting Alex Radulov who would make no mistake. A few minutes later, a similar situation unfolded, but the Tampa Bay goalie was lucky enough to get the puck up and off his stick before more damage could be done. It’s plays and goals like this that I am eternally grateful for the gift that is Carey Price.
2. Shea Weber finally broke the drought
With much injury speculation going around in the last month that has seen no offensive production from the Canadiens’ top blue-liner, Weber finally nabbed himself a goal for the month of December. Switching things up on the powerplay, #6 finally banked one in effortlessly from his offside. Is that enough to stop fan and media assumption? Unlikely, but with any luck, his renewed production will mean good things for the year to come.
3. Welcome back, Radulov
Forget points and forget scoring, because we all know just how effective Alexander Radulov can be without these things. Of course, we’re not going to complain when he does score, but Radulov has been a sparkplug for this team since he debuted in Montreal this fall. Radulov has been missing the magic in the last few games, where nothing seemed to be going right for the guy, but it appears the Christmas break did him well. He was absolutely electric all night long, looking like his regular, relentless, chant-inducing self.
4. The fourth line was back doing Montreal fourth line things
I must admit, up until recently, I had been pretty indifferent to Chris Terry before heading into this game, but my eyes have been opened. Terry is a quiet, unassuming guy, but a heck of a skater who can beat you to the puck and battle it out for possession. Paired with the pesky Daniel Carr and the Hulk-like size of Michael McCarron, this trio was responsible for much of the momentum built up in the first period, and continued to press all game long. It’s great to see these guys stepping in when other guys need to step up as Montreal continues to battle through injuries.
5. After two great periods of play, they let the Lightning take over in the third
The Canadiens controlled the pace of the game through most of the first 40 minutes of play, but the Lightning stormed out of the dressing room for the third period, where the Habs would blow a two goal lead in 20 minutes. Tampa capitalized on a couple of inopportune turnovers at the blue line in the Canadiens’ defensive zone, and were not very generous when it came to giving le Tricolore any breathing room through the last few minutes. A lucky break for the Canadiens came when Tampa was called for having too many men on the ice, but the momentum was too much in the Lightning’s favor, who had more scoring chances on that last man advantage than the Habs. In the end, a solid effort early on wasn’t enough to bag the win.
6. It’s not happening for Gallagher, but he’s staying strong
A lack of production hasn’t stopped Brendan Gallagher from playing his game. Night in and night out, you can always count of #11 to bring the intensity in the offensive zone, where he just would not stop buzzing last night. Whether he was tying up his man down low, making Tampa’s goalie’s life hell while doing what he’s paid to do in front of the net, or battling for pucks shift after shift, Gallagher has no intention of going gentle into that good night. Putting him back on the top line with Max Pacioretty, with whom he has natural chemistry, good things are bound to start happening for Gally.
7. Habs vs. Bolts; always good hockey
I always look forward to watching Montreal take on Tampa Bay, because you can always count on these two teams to bring their A game against each other, making it for fast, open hockey. It’s not the dirty, gritty rivalry that is Habs-Bruins, nor is it the storied competition between the Canadiens and the Leafs, but it’s brand new and so much fun to watch. And I can’t lie. I may have been rooting for Tampa to take the Cup last season in the Habs’ absence from the playoffs. But shush.
8. Paul Byron — ‘nuff said
Normally, this point would be all about Carey Price, because Carey Price is incredible and has godlike talent and all that jazz. But Byron has become such a staple on this team that I no longer find myself pleasantly surprised when Byron does Byron things. Two-point first period for #41? You’re damn right.
9. Carey Price — ‘nuff said
Batting pucks through hordes of players à la Sidney Crosby, swatting them out of harm’s way like a ninja, and making highlight reel save after highlight reel save, Carey Price was back in Price-like form tonight after the holiday break. Injuries aside, Tampa Bay still finds themselves among the league’s top 10 in scoring, thanks in large part to The Triplets, but Price was there to keep the Canadiens in the game.
Truth be told, Price isn’t playing his best hockey of the year. As with many of his games, you can’t solely pin the loss on him seeing as a breakdown in the third period took this from a 3-1 game after two periods for the Habs, to staring down a 3-4 overtime loss after sixty-some minutes of play.
Ridiculous Carey Price save #47631 pic.twitter.com/3wql6Hbja2— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 29, 2016
10. Damn you, Tyler Johnson
After a stressful second round in the 2015 playoffs that saw way too many points from this guy, nothing annoys me quite as much as a Tyler Johnson goal. A year and a half later, the feeling remains the same, especially when a Habs loss comes as a direct result of his success, but I suppose I should be content that he scored in overtime, rather than the waning minutes of the third so that the Canadiens could come out of it with a point, even though they very nearly had two in the bag.