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Canadiens vs. Sabres recap: Alex Galchenyuk is unstoppable

Alex Galchenyuk put up yet another two-goal night, but it was unfortunately underscored by a scary injury to P.K. Subban.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Though not yet mathematically eliminated, the injury-riddled Canadiens find themselves facing a rather steep uphill battle to get into the playoffs. If they still believe they can make it, beating the lowly Sabres would be imperative to that end. Luckily they would get some help back, as Lars Eller returned to the lineup after a brief absence.


Image Credit: HockeyStats.ca

If anyone was expecting a fast-paced and exciting hockey game, they'd have been quite displeased early on. It was exactly what one should have expected to see; a game between two non-playoff teams. Despite two power play opportunities, the Canadiens were outshot 12-10, and neither team could put anything on the board.

Stoppages in play were plenty, and if one were to describe the game in a single word, "sloppy" would be the obvious choice. The second period was a lot of the same, with the Sabres failing on a power play of their own, until a seemingly harmless Jake McCabe point shot was redirected by Nicolas Deslauriers to put the visitors up 1-0.

Enter Alex Galchenyuk, who remains absolutely on fire. Seconds after the goal, he charged into the slot, took a Max Pacioretty pass from below the goal line, and wired it home to tie the game. He is arguably the best player on the Canadiens right now.

That was followed by a little physicality, as Mike Brown would drop the mitts with Deslauriers shortly thereafter. Brown appeared to injure his hand on the play, and headed to the room at the first opportunity, but he would ultimately return and stay in the game.

Then the much maligned Habs power play would get a late-period chance to get on the board. And who would score to put the home team in the lead? Well, Alex Galchenyuk of course. He was inexplicably left alone in front of the net, Sven Andrighetto found him, and he converted for yet another two-goal game.

Buffalo would eventually get it back though. Just after a Victor Bartley penalty expired, Evander Kane threw a puck on net from the boards, and it deflected off the skate of Brian Gionta to tie the game. Up to that point, Mike Condon had been doing a great job shutting down the Sabres' power play.

And then a former Sabre would burn his old team. The trio of Stefan Matteau, Michael McCarron, and Torrey Mitchell were creating havoc in the offensive zone, and eventually Mitchell pounced on a rebound and beat a screened Robin Lehner. It was quite the shift from that line to get the go-ahead goal.

While it looked like the Canadiens might be able to coast to a win from there, it would not be without yet another instance of brutally bad luck. P.K. Subban fell during a puck battle in the corner, got clipped by Alexei Emelin, and had to be stretchered off the Bell Centre ice.

The Sabres would pull Lehner right after that, but the Canadiens would ultimately hold on to get the win. But it was somewhat of a pyrrhic victory, as all thoughts were focused on P.K. Subban, and whether a serious injury may have befallen the star defenceman.

Thoughts

  • Is Alex Galchenyuk ever coming back down to earth? He now has at least two goals in four of his last five games. He's not just getting lucky either, because he looks like the best player on the ice every night. How it took so long for the coaching staff to realize that he belongs at centre on the top line is quite confusing.
  • And that top line of him, Pacioretty, and Andrighetto are dominating. When they were on the ice last night, they controlled over 64% of even-strength shot attempts. Their deployment was quite favourable in terms of offensive zone starts, but it is clear that they are quite the formidable trio.
  • Michael McCarron may not have grabbed a point on Torrey Mitchell's goal, but he was a big part of the havoc they were able to create in the offensive zone. His skating seems to get better every game, and he has clearly learned how to use his frame to present major problems for defenders.
  • Mike Condon was quite good on the night. He had no chance on either goal, as they both took surprising redirections on their way to the net. I have to think that his numbers for the season would be much better if he had gotten some better performances in front of him while Carey Price has been out.
  • The Canadiens were both outshot and out-attempted, so one could argue that the Sabres were more deserving of a win on this night. If not for some solid play by Condon, and the absolute brilliance of Galchenyuk, the outcome of this game may have been quite different.
  • This should be remembered as yet another one of Galchenyuk's nights, but unfortunately it will be overshadowed by the scary moment with P.K. Subban. Last news at the time of this recap being written is that he is in the hospital being looked at for a neck injury, but that he still has complete function in his extremities.
Naturally, we will endeavour to provide an update on Subban as soon as some news is made available. The Canadiens will try to extend their winning streak on Saturday against the Wild, and it would not be surprising if he is held out of that game, even if only on a precautionary basis.

I hope that everyone will join me in wishing him the very best in his recovery, and hoping that it doesn't turn out to be something serious.