1. David Desharnais WANTED that goal badly.
After being virtually invisible last game, Desharnais came out with this look on his face from the get go--he meant business; he was everywhere, drawing the first powerplay of the night. Later in the first, he put away Sven Andrighetto's rebound with authority for his tenth of the year. In just under 14 minutes, he had three shots on net, and showed exactly why he is so effective playing the role he currently fills.
2. Mike Condon had himself a night.
He made some big saves, like the Ondrej Palat penalty shot, and a big Nikita Kucherov powerplay chance, which he turned aside. and looked really solid all throughout. His puck handling and positional play seems to be much improved of late, and he really deserved the shutout.
3. The injury bug is persistent.
The same day we get Price and Gallagher back in practice, Nathan Beaulieu makes a huge save on the penalty kill...by blocking a shot...with his hand toward the end of the first period. He did not return. We've heard that one before. Because we can't have nice things, and this song will never not be relevant, it turns out he broke his thumb, and is out for the rest of the season. Brett Lernout will be the 14th (!!!!!) defenceman to suit up for the Habs this season. He was having a really good game up until that point too.
4. The Canadiens looked good.
All the lines were clicking, they had defence, and Condon stood tall. When there were mistakes, guys covered for each other. They finally out-chanced their opponent: scoring chances were 22-19 Habs, and the high-danger chances were 10-7, in the Habs favour.
The powerplay was still lacking though. Surprise, surprise. On the other hand, the penalty kill of old made an appearance, as the Habs killed all three penalties, and even showed glimpses of what used to make it so dangerous, as Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec both made forays into the offensive zone. Additionally, whether it it was the strength of the Habs or simply because he was having a bad night, or some combination thereof, the Habs completely shut down Stamkos. There were always guys on him closely, taking away all time and space.
5. No second period meltdown...but...
Corsi by period: First: 17-17 (50.0%), Second: 13-15 (46.4%), Third: 9-11 (45.0%)— Mathieu Roy (@Le_Matheux) April 1, 2016
After having jumped out to a two goal lead, and playing strong through two periods without their recent, terrible tendency of completely melting down in the second, they fell back on an older bad habit: they put their heads down and hung on. They didn't stop playing, and they didn't make terrible mistakes or anything like that, there just wasn't as much urgency as there could have been. Luckily, despite Cooper's decision to pull the goalie and play 6-on-4 and 6-on-5 for the last two minutes and thirty seconds, the Habs' defence, a penalty box spring by Dietz into the empty net, and the strong play of Condon brought the Habs through unscathed. However, it was also the only period where the Habs outshot the Lightning, even with the extended Lightning man advantage.
6. Darren Dietz and Joel Hanley stepped up.
Speaking of Dietz, though he and Hanley were, as has been tradition, crushed in the CF% department, they didn't look woefully out of place, even after Beaulieu left the game, and they had to play more. The penalty shot called after Hanley tied up Ondrej Palat was a bit of a soft call, but other than that, he played 19:16, including 2:31 on the penalty kill. Dietz' most memorable moment of the night definitely came when Jonathan Marchessault wrongly identified Dietz as the owner of the stick that got in his face as he sprawled on the ice in front of the net. He came up swinging, and Dietz gave a good account of himself.
7. Emelin had a good night again.
Maybe at this point we should stop drawing attention to it, and accept that, for this season at least, it's a normal thing. However, after years of terrible being the status quo, I still think it deserves mentioning. Alexei Emelin had himself two assists and a positive CF differential en route to his team-leading 29:17 on ice. He looked good, and for a team that is about to dress its 14th defenceman of the season, the stability he has been able to provide is huge.
8. The powerplay failure is getting ridiculous.
The powerplay looked slightly more dangerous than it has recently, but that's really not saying much. All it really means is that, instead of being an unmitigated disaster leading to goals against, it was merely aggravating to watch. On the plus side, in Michael McCarron, the Habs now have a player who's tall enough to effectively screen Ben Bishop, and there was some good puck movement at times. No more Davey failing utterly to take away Bishop's view. Boy do they miss P.K. Subban though.
9. The General soldiers on, Scorrey Mitchell made his presence felt, and some other guys stood out.
The reports of Andrei Markov's demise were greatly exaggerated indeed. While I definitely am not happy that he's playing close to 30 minutes a game, he's doing it really well. With his CF% of 53.49, he was (unsurprisingly) the Habs' best defenceman to finish the game, and showed no signs of feeling the gruelling workload that he's had to carry of late.
Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk continue to build chemistry and look dangerous, even without a goal to show for it. Galchenyuk had four shots, and they both should have had much more powerplay time than they did.
Lars Eller had himself a solid night, creating at least three scoring chances, including one on the powerplay that resulted from the former covering the point for Markov as the later went to the bench to acquire a new stick. Torrey Mitchell scored his tenth of the year on a real beauty of a rush, cutting across the crease and banging in his own rebound. It was also Mitchell's pass that sprung Phillip Danault as he charged out of the penalty box and scored his fourth from a sharp angle.
10. 3-0-0 against Tampa this year
The team that gave the Habs fits last year has been entirely at their mercy this year, which is utterly baffling. Last year, the Habs were swept in five games, and outscored by a humiliating 21-8, all while being a healthy playoff team. This year, they didn't meet the Lightning until they had already lost Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher, and yet they've won three out of four match-ups against their Florida rivals, scoring no less than three goals every time. Gotta love hockey.