The Montreal Canadiens came into Saturday night’s contest riding high. They’d won four straight games, and Carey Price was locked back into God Mode. Through a combination of great goaltending, timely goals, and improving special teams, the Canadiens unlocked their Konami Code to charge back into the playoff picture.
Unlike Thursday night’s game with Detroit, it was the Canadiens who stormed out of the gates and took a lead early in the game. It took the Canadiens less than six minutes to fully sink their claws into Detroit, and they never looked back afterward.
Paul Byron has been heating up lately, and last night was his crowning moment in a Habs sweater to date. Just over five minutes into the first period Byron snagged a loose puck, and as he so often does, he turned on the jets, leaving the Red Wings defence behind him. Not only did the speedy winger get in with ease, all it took was one move and a nice release for Byron to score against Petr Mrazek for his seventh of the year.
Then something interesting happened. Much like their prior game against the Red Wings, the Habs didn’t give them any chance to breathe. Nicolas Deslauriers would be the one who put Detroit permanently back on their heels after taking a perfect feed from Byron Froese. Daniel Carr dug the puck out and passed it along to Froese, and the Laval Rocket captain found a wide-open Deslauriers in the slot, who scored his first in a Habs uniform.
Detroit had a great chance to climb back into the game with a short-handed chance with Gustav Nyquist in the box. Even with Price sprawling to the post, Dylan Larkin flubbed the shot just wide and kept the Habs’ lead intact.
Then unlike previous games, the Canadiens kept their foot down on the gas, and at the forefront again was Paul Byron. Just 1:51 into the second period he created his own breakaway and once again buried a goal past Mrazek.
Niklas Kronwall lined up the speedy Byron for a hit, but didn’t anticipate a change of direction from the speedster. He was forced to adjust, but did so too late, and the Habs led 3-0.
Then, the goals just kept coming, including a short-handed tally by Jacob de la Rose, his first NHL goal in 49 games. Deslauriers chipped the puck out of the zone during the penalty kill and broke out two-on-one with de la Rose. With Mrazek challenging aggressively, and Mike Green unable to stop the pass, it was an easy tap in goal for the Swede.
Then with Max Pacioretty and Gustav Nyquist sitting for offsetting roughing penalties, Trevor Daley took an extremely ill-timed interference penalty. From there a returning Shea Weber picked out Alex Galchenyuk outside the faceoff circle, and Galchenyuk fed the puck to Charles Hudon. The rookie forward took the open space of the 4-on-3 to drift back toward the circle, and he then unleashed a laser of a wrist shot that beat Mrazek clean, and ended the goaltender’s night.
And yet, Montreal still kept their foot on the pedal, and just two minutes later Paul Byron completed his hat trick. De la Rose won the draw and Galchenyuk had a nifty backhand pass to Byron in the slot area. The red-hot Byron then let a wrist shot fly through traffic and it found its way past Jimmy Howard and put Montreal comfortably on top.
Even with a big lead to begin the third period the Habs gave no quarter to the Red Wings, as just a minute in Brendan Gallagher piled onto their misery. A misplayed puck by Mike Green led to a 3-on-0 for Montreal with Hudon passing off to Tomas Plekanec, who fed it over to Gallgher, who in turn put a wrist shot off the crossbar and in for the seventh Canadiens goal of the night.
It just kept getting worse for Detroit, so bad in fact that one might wonder if the Red Wings are just going to set fire to the film of this game and pretend it never existed.
With the entirety of the Detroit skating contingent focused on a board battle, Jordie Benn was left wide open in the slot. Deslauriers emerged from the scrum with the puck, and with one pass teed up Benn for a quick slapshot that found the upper corner of the net, and made it an 8-0 game.
Three minutes later Detroit won a moral victory on the night, as they finally broke Price’s shutout bid with around 10 minutes left on the clock. A loose puck in the crease led to a mad scramble, and Luke Glendening got his stick on it last, forcing it slowly over the line.
So to compensate, the Canadiens came back and scored their ninth goal of the night two minutes later, completing an outstanding night by the fourth line. Byron Froese and Daniel Carr flew the zone with the puck, then blew by Xavier Ouellet to get in alone on Howard. Froese sent the puck over to Carr who finished with a neat little backhand.
But they still weren’t finished. Andrew Shaw took a pass from Phillip Danault and let a long-range wrist shot fly from near the blue line. Luck was clearly on the Habs side, as it found the back of the net, and for the second time in two years, the Canadiens posted 10 goals in a game, solidifying their hold on a playoff spot with a 10-1 win, while inching closer to the second-place Maple Leafs.
- Make no mistake, the Canadiens fully deserved this win, and right from the outset dominated a struggling Red Wings team. On a night where the commentary constantly reminded fans of the fact that 22 years ago Patrick Roy played his last game in a Habs uniform, the Canadiens gave fans something more positive to think about. Sure there’s likely a fair bit of luck too; it’s not easy to score 10 goals in a game, let alone in the fashion Montreal did. But, maybe there is always the chance that this is a glimpse of the talent the Canadiens can show when firing on all cylinders
- As an aside, it’s been three years since one of the all-time great legends of the game left us. Jean Beliveau was a giant in Montreal, on the ice and off it. Consider last night a victory for you Jean. We all miss you dearly.