The Montreal Canadiens returned home for just their second game at the Bell Centre in their last 11 contests. A few players joined them when they arrived, and both Andrew Shaw and Alex Galchenyuk had a major impact on Saturday night’s game, though in very different ways.
An early disallowed goal
Perhaps Shaw’s acting skills were a little rusty after a lengthy stint off the stage, and that made his embellishment as he fell into New York Rangers starter Antti Raanta a bit too obvious.
On that play, at least you can say he was doing his best to help his team, but the result of his actions was an early Habs goal coming off the board.
A selfish play
After having watched the Rangers take the lead while he was sitting in the penalty box, Shaw decided he needed to make a physical statement, and came in from the side to lay out Jesper Fast with a hit after he had advanced the puck up the ice. Fast wasn’t suspecting the hit and went down to the ice for an extended period of time.
J.T. Miller came to the defence of his teammate, engaging Shaw in a fight. When all was said and done, Shaw added that five minutes for the fisticuffs to the two he had served earlier in the period, and was also slapped with a deserved five-minute major for the interference on Fast while also given a game misconduct to ensure he would play no further part in the night’s performance.
In his first game back, Shaw left after just under 17 minutes of play with 22 penalty minutes to his name, forcing the Habs to spend the next five minutes short-handed, and having been involved in the two goal calls going against his team. That’s not what the Habs needed to right the ship after a breakdown in the previous game.
Fortunately, the Habs were able to kill off Shaw’s major penalty without any further damage.
The power play
There isn’t much to say about the power play that hasn’t been said before. The team has the talent to make teams pay for their trangressions, but they cannot get the puck into the zone to take advantage of those offensive skills.
With a few games to get back up to game speed, Alex Galchenyuk should be able to make the controlled zone entries he executed before his absence, but right now the Habs are just wasting their time when going up a man.
A more positive debut
Unlike his teammate, Galchenyuk was able to make a positive impact on the scoreboard. Getting alone in front, he got his stick on a point shot about a minute after Shaw’s major had expired in the second period, fooling Raanta’s replacement, Henrik Lundqvist, to reset proceedings.
It was his only shot on goal on the night as he wasn’t quite up to his usual standards, but Galchenyuk was the one to spark his team, and his offensive skill is a welcome addition to the club.
Phillip Danault cannot be stopped
Not even a demotion necessitated by the return of Galchenyuk could cool off Danault’s hot hand. It was his goal that was overturned in the first, and came from a persistent effort to chase down his own rebound and backhand it into the net.
Despite that setback, Danault was still able to register three assists — two of them primary helpers — for the most productive night of his NHL career.
The transaction that brought Danault into the organization has to be viewed as one of Marc Bergevin’s best, and one of the best trades in the league over the past few seasons.
A controversial goal
After Galchenyuk had scored to tie the game, the Rangers got their one-goal lead right back on a Rick Nash tally.
To set up that goal, however, Kevin Hayes had driven to the goal, got his skate caught in Carey Price’s equipment, and dragged the Habs goalie out of his crease to create an empty-net opportunity.
Michel Therrien used his challenge to force the referees to look at the play again, and a review was launched that lasted several minutes. It seemed pretty clear to those watching that Price had been prevented from making a save, and the review seemed to be taking longer than was necessary.
However, it seems the refs were looking closely at the replays to determine where the contact had been made, and their final verdict was that, although Price himself was in the crease, Hayes’ skate was outside of it when he made contact with the netminder.
Here's the official explanation from the NHL on the Rick Nash goal. pic.twitter.com/6sUskDDWQl— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) January 15, 2017
After looking at the overhead angle of the play, we agree that this was the case.
It appears that the NHL rules were followed in making the determination, though pulling the goaltender away from the net so he can’t make a save doesn’t seem like a proper way to score a goal.
Carey Price is not himself
If it wasn’t known beforehand, the status of Price became quite obvious in the third period. After attempting to make an awkward save, Price went to his knees in the crease and was slow to get up.
He finished the game without anyone looking particularly concerned about his welfare, and he was at practice on Sunday morning, so it seems to be an ailment that is known to the medical staff and his fellow players, and one that he’s able to suffer.
While dealing with it, however, Price is consistently allowing four goals a game. While they were able to outscore that and get a win last night, going into a game needing five goals to win may not be the best strategy.
Max Pacioretty is back on form
A slow start to the season had many wondering whether Pacioretty had begun his regression, but his play of late has silenced all of those doubts.
Just a minute after Alexei Emelin had scored his second goal of the season to tie the game (now just one shy of his career high of three, which he’s done four times), Pacioretty raced away from the Rangers’ defence to give the Habs a quick lead.
The captain usually gets breakaways by slipping behind the defence and taking a stretch pass. Last night, he made his own opportunity by blowing past some opposing players in front of him. He’s been displaying more speed than he’s shown in recent seasons, and adding that footspeed to his already quick hands is making him an even more dangerous offensive threat.
Three goals in 62 seconds
Twenty-six seconds after Pacioretty’s goal, Paul Byron netted his 13th of the season to put the Canadiens up by two. That had the crowd, which had been subdued by a large contingent of Rangers fans for most of the night, roaring with approval.
The goal proved to be the game-winner when the Rangers got one back about three minutes later, making that outburst a crucial event in the comeback win.
The timing of the goal explosion is interesting; it came right after Price’s awkward fall. Rather than worrying about how they’d survive with their goaltender physically struggling, the skaters decided to take charge and go out and win the game themselves.
It wasn’t a one-off performance. The Canadiens have been one of the best third-period teams all season long, using what is usually a solid four-line composition to keep the players relatively fresh for the final 20 minutes where they can outperform their opposition.
#Habs are now 6-8-3 when trailing after two periods. Second-most wins in that category, trailing only the Penguins (7).— Heather Engel (@engelheather) January 15, 2017
It’s a quality that has helped the team get through a tough stretch of injuries to key personnel, and a good trait to have with the playoffs approaching.
The Canadiens take the confidence from this solid home win on the road, and hope to start a win streak during the working hours on Monday.