1. Connor McDavid doesn’t skate
He flies. Glides, even. It is stunning and terrifying in equal measure.
Being a Habs fan in Montreal, I’ll usually only catch a handful of Edmonton games per year, but the young captain tempts me to change that. McDavid does just fine without the puck, but it’s amazing what he can do when it’s in his possession. Don’t blink.
2. Brendan Gallagher looked great
It was impossible not to notice #11 anytime he took to the ice last night, and Gallagher wasted not a second of a single shift. He stormed past Oilers time and again, creating havoc in the offensive zone as he carried the play, battled for loose pucks, and stayed comfortably nestled under the skin of his opponents. His determination came shining through all night long, and poured out tenfold after having skated to the bench in pain in the second period. He was finally rewarded well into the third when he and Danault set up Paul Byron, who was waiting all alone in front of Cam Talbot. Well done, Brendan.
3. The game's opening minutes didn’t come easy
The Canadiens struggled to generate much of anything in the first chunk of the opening frame, as the Oilers were there to turn them away from the door — or — back through the neutral zone at almost every attempt to make their way up ice. After a forgettable performance in Calgary a few nights prior, they did come out with significant jump in their step, but Edmonton wasn't willing to give much of anything early on.
4. And once that momentum shifted…
It was all Montreal for the latter half of the first. Whether it was a spark from the bench, or something that came on the ice, they really turned the first period in their favor. Peppering Cam Talbot with 15 shots by the end of the first 20, and four goals to show by the game’s end, the Canadiens proved what we already know (but perhaps sometimes forget) — the Habs are better than a tight start.
5. It had to be Lucic, didn’t it?
The wrong #27 opened the scoring in last night’s game. I don’t think a hockey player can spark my rage quite like Milan Lucic—well, maybe they can, considering the Habs-Lucic matchups have been limited to twice per year since his departure from Boston. That doesn’t mean my eyes rolled any less when the Oilers’ alternate captain out-muscled Alexei Emelin at the blue line to eventually snipe one past Carey Price. What’s important is that the Canadiens didn’t allow this to change their game, and continued to fight hard through the second period and the third, to eventually tie and win the game.game, and continued to fight hard through the second period and the third, to eventually tie and win the game.
6. McCarron drops them again
Michael McCarron and Darnell Nurse tangoed very early on in the first period, dropping the gloves right off a faceoff in Oiler territory. Personally, I don’t like it. Such a fight over (what seemed like) nothing so early in the game doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense to me, and I think Big Mac is better than swinging his emotions into the jaws of his enemies. And if there were a time to drop the gloves, perhaps it would have come a few shifts later, when Zack Kassian launched into Carey Price. But McCarron was already safely in the penalty box at that point. Truth be told, if McCarron is going to be used as a 4th line fighter, he may as well pick opponents that can play hockey, like Nurse, and avoid outright goons.
Big men punching each other in the face.— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) March 12, 2017
(Bonus: REF CAM!) pic.twitter.com/3aljcAbiXO
7. Hey, PK!
The penalty kill has really been something else since Claude Julien’s takeover. When Alexei Emelin took a double minor for high sticking, I was convinced that would be the nail in the Habs’ coffin, as the Habs were already down by one. Don’t I love it when they prove me wrong! Down a man for one fifth of the second period, the Canadiens kept the Oilers boxed out, and didn’t give the home team much of anything to work with, as they repeatedly launched the puck back down the ice. Their resilience not only kept it a one goal game, but generated another momentum swing that would see them get a number of quality chances through the remainder of the middle frame.
8. Reunited and it feels so good
You know how the song goes. A little line juggling from the head coach saw Alex Galchenyuk reunited with long lost line mate Max Pacioretty and the newly healthy Alexander Radulov, and you can’t say that it was for naught. The top trio combined for for a goal very shortly after Byron’s first of the night, providing a one-two punch that the Canadiens have sorely missed. With Pacioretty showing no signs of slowing down and Alex Galchenyuk getting his groove back, it will be one heck of a bender if these three can stick together down the stretch.
9. Paul Byron was claimed off waivers
He has 18 goals on the season, and two on the night against Edmonton. Sure, one was an empty net goal, but that’s not to say it was unimpressive as he outworked Captain Connor for the puck that would roll into the opposition’s net. His ability to take off from nothing out of the defensive zone saved the Canadiens’ bacon a couple of times to relieve bouts of Edmonton pressure. He and Brendan Gallagher put on one hell of a show for Habs fans at Rogers Place, and watching at home.
10. Carey Price
Don’t you love it when Carey gets sassy with the glove saves? I know I do. The less occupied of the two net minders, Carey Price dazzled just the same, keeping the offensive prowess of the Edmonton Oilers at bay all but once. We’re no strangers to the magnificence that is #31, but having won every one of his last six starts, Price most definitely deserves a shoutout and a stick tap.