A pivotal win and a busy week coming for the Habs
Goaltending, check. Power play, check, Penalty kill, check. Win, check.
The Montreal Canadiens used the key elements that Jacques Martin relies on in a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers.
The victory put the Habs within two points of the Boston Bruins, who lost earlier in the day to the Pittsburgh Penguins, for first place in the Northeast Division. Boston still has a game in hand. The win also puts them two points behind both the Rangers and the Washington Capitals, who both see action Sunday.
The Canadiens capitalized on the power play, converting two of four opportunities, and getting a dozen of their total 41 shots on Henrik Lundqvist with the man advantage. The Rangers were blanked on their four opportunities, managing just five shots.
Montreal's scoring came in a New York Minute, firing three goals past Lundqvist in a 2:44 span of the first period,
Roman Hamrlik and Tomas Plekanec nabbed power play markers, and Andrei Kostitsyn, inspired by his one-on-one with Martin, blasted what would be the game winner for his 11th of the season. The tally out a smile on the face of the struggling Belarusian, and hopefully it inspires him to be more consistent in finding the back of the net.
Goaltending at both ends was outstanding. Lundqvist showed why he was selected to this year's All-Star game in Raleigh. The Swedish netminder made 38 saves on the night, after making 36 in the Rangers 2-1 loss to the Canadiens earlier in the week. Despite the loss, there had to be a personal sense of improvement for Lundqvist, who had a 4.65 goals against average and .845 SvPct at the Bell Centre.
Carey Price had a relatively easy first 40 minutes, needing to make just 11 stops, though in his head he had a dozen. Price thought he had the puck iced, when Brian Boyle wiggled the puck loose at 6:58 of the first. The Canadiens netminder had to turn it on in the third, making 20 saves with several game savers along the way.
An unattended Mats Zuccarellomanaged to get a pair of whacks at the puck in the third to put the Rangers within one, but Price shut the door after that right down to the last two seconds. With respect to Kostitsyn, who played a solid game, Price deserved a three star selection
Despite the slow down defensively in the third period, the Canadiens rearguards were big impacts in the game.
James Wisniewski was in on both power play goals and led the team with 25:01 TOI, picking up the game's first star. P.K. Subban(23:50) won the mind-game war with Brandon Dubinsky, that ultimately led to the Canadiens first goal. THe rookie also made a slick slap pass to Plekanec on the second goal for the Canadiens.
Hamrlik and Hal Gill also clocked over 20 minutes of ice time. Yannick Weber and Jaroslav Spacek are clearly being relegated to a low minute third pairing, as the duo averaged just 12 minutes of ice time Saturday, and were each -1.
Mike Cammalleri made his return, after missing a pair of games due to illness, picking up an assist and getting six shots on goal.
Max Pacioretty was good to go, after being a game-time decision, and was the victim of Lundqvist's frustrations after Duminsky dumped him into the Rangers netminder. Lundqvist took exception by laying a few punches with his blocker.
The Canadiens now move on to a very busy week, with a pair of back-to back games, and face a host of ex-Habs. Montreal first host the Calgary Flames (Alex Tanguay) on Monday before travelling to face the Buffalo Sabres (Craig Rivet).
They then visit the Ottawa Senators (Alex Kovalev, though injured and former prospect Corey Locke) on Friday, before hosting Saku Koivu, Maxim Lapierre, and possibly Paul Mara and Kyle Chipchura (a pair of healthy scratches of late) when the Anaheim Ducks visit on Saturday.
More on the game form the Rangers camp at Blueshirt Banter
Hmmmm: After not registering a point in six games, the San Jose Sharks fired four goals past Jaroslav Halak, on 29 shots, in a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. Halak is 1-3-0, with a non-decision in his last five starts (3.34 GAA, .885 SvPct). Had his slump been in Montreal (See Carey Price, December 2010), we would have heard more about it, eh?