After limping through the month of February without a single victory in regulation, the Montreal Canadiens didn’t wait long to win their first in March.
Taking on the Nashville Predators on Thursday night, it was a regulation win that almost wasn’t, as Paul Byron netted the game-winning goal with just eight seconds remaining in the third. Tonight, the Habs look to win back-to-back regulation games for the first time since December 20th.
While it would be nice to see that 73-day stretch halted tonight in New York, the Rangers will undoubtedly have other plans. Sitting in the top wild-card spot in the East and looking to leapfrog the Penguins in the division, Alain Vigneault’s squad will be a tough test for a Canadiens team that has seemingly rebounded.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: CBC (English), TVAS (French)
In the United States: MSG, NHLN-US
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|52.52||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||47.94|
|1.19||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.12|
Relatively safe in the wild card are Rangers, boasting a comfortable 14-point lead over the state-rival Islanders, who currently occupy the second spot. At this stage it’s more about jockeying for first-round matchups and home-ice advantage; a curious situation for the Rangers, who have actually been a little better away from Madison Square Garden this season.
The Rangers have been surprisingly weak in terms of possession, especially considering the fact that only the Washington Capitals have more wins so far this year. What they’ve lacked in puck control, however, they’ve made up for with their finishing. The Rangers’ shooting percentage of 9.37% is good for third in the NHL.
One of the men responsible for that is Michael Grabner, who has been experiencing a bit of a resurgence in the Big Apple this year with 26 goals; his highest total since potting 34 in 2010-11.
In truth, it has been a collaborative effort in New York this season as five forwards have recorded more than 40 points already. Compare that to just two — Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov — on the Canadiens. J.T. Miller has been the primary catalyst, with 29 assists and 48 points through 64 games, which is already a career-high for the 23-year-old, who has stepped up in a big way this season.
Henrik Lundqvist has received a lot of credit as of late for looking like the King of old, which isn’t a good sign for a Habs team struggling to find offence. While he held the Boston Bruins to a single goal on Thursday night, Lundqvist did allow a combined nine goals in his previous two starts, making tonight’s performance one to watch between the pipes.
After a troubling start to the 2017 calendar year, the Canadiens now have an opportunity to win a fifth consecutive game; a feat they haven’t managed since November 2. With just over a month to go in the regular season, that would certainly kick the final stretch off in a good way.