Peter Budaj, making just his second start of the season, stopped 27 shots and the Canadiens spoiled the opening of renovated Madison Square Garden by shutting out the New York Rangers 2-0. Tomas Plekanec scored what proved to be the winning goal on a second period power play. Alex Galchenyuk put the game out of reach with 2:51 remaining. Going back to last season the Canadiens have shut out the Rangers in three consecutive games. Shots on goal were even at 27-27. The games three stars were Budaj, Plekanec and Galchenyuk.
Adding It Up –
On the Road Again – Do you get the feeling the Canadiens do it better on the road. As the cliché goes – a perfect road game. They are now 4-1-0 to start the season on the road. At home…..not so good – 3-4-0.
Game Changer – At 1:39 of the first period Chris Kreider got in on a Budaj and put his shot off the cross bar and then the post. Through the remaining 18:21 nothing got behind Budaj as, for the most part, he was given a clear view of the proceedings in front of him by his defence.
Taking Care of Business – The Canadiens set the tone in the first period when they blocked ten New York Rangers shots, three by Josh Gorges and two each from P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov. The final scoresheet showed Canadiens 28 blocked shots, the Rangers 11. That’s 28 Rangers shots blocked to only 27 Rangers shots on goal.
No Ill Effect – Brendan Gallagher may have taken a hard crack on the head Saturday night in the San Jose game, but there was no change in his approach. He was his usual eel-like self along the boards and equally aggressive in the corners and his refusal to quit on a 2nd period play along the boards against 6’7” 250lb. Brian Boyle drew what turned out to be the key penalty of the game.
Why They Earn Big Bucks – With Boyle in the penalty box, the Canadiens game winning goal started with Subban in his own zone feeding Markov who got it cleanly out to Gionta, ahead to the line for Bournival who touched it to Plekanec behind the defence. Plekanec cut across and tucked it past Lundqvist. “Slick” is only word to describe it. 1-0 Canadiens.
Closing The Deal – Into the third period, the Rangers were frustrated and desperate. All eyes were on Budaj as the pressure mounted. Six minutes into the period J.T. Miller broke past Subban. Budaj stopped him. 3 1/2 minutes later, Miller again off a deflected puck and Budaj got his pad on it. And then the pièce de résistance, a highlight reel save on Mats Zuccarello with four minutes left. With that Budaj set the table for the big finish.
Nailing It Down – Once again it was Gallagher’s second effort that started the play that led to the Canadiens second goal. Gallagher had to fight to get the puck out to Galchenyuk at centre. Two-on-one with Eller who got the pass only to return it across the goalmouth to Galchenyuk who may or may not have kicked the puck in. No question he steered it past Lundqvist. Toronto reviewed it and said it was a good goal. Certainly room for argument especially from the Rangers end of the ice.
Worth Mentioning –
……..The Plekanec Line is really cooking since Bournival joined it. Including the San Jose game when they were shutout, the line has six goals and 14 points and three game winning goals in their four games together.
…….This was a Josh Gorges kind of game. Five blocked shots, a takeaway and a night spent clearing the front of the net and pushing the puck to the corners or the boards and winning the battles when he got there.
……The Canadiens may have a Norris Trophy winner on the team, but he’s not the best defenceman on his own team. Andrei Markov played an impeccable two way game. At one end of the ice he blocked six shots. At the other end he produced three shots on goal and was on the ice for both Canadiens goals. One of those blocked shots in the final minute with the Ranger net empty caused him some pain.
……David Desharnais could be the most improved player from the strt of the season.
……Mixed reviews on newcomers Louis Leblanc and Douglas Murray. Leblanc took a bad penalty off an offensive zone faceoff early in the second period. He had one shot on goal. He needs to ramp up the aggressive side of his game if he wants to stay around.
…..On a team based on speed, it’s going to be hard getting used to Douglas Murray. Michel Therrien gave him 14 minutes of ice time in what was his first game since last year’s playoffs in Pittsburgh. He threw one of his big hits on Chris Kreider in the third period which got him an interference penalty. But he also used his size to clear out the goalmouth when Budaj was under pressure moments after the Canadiens made it 1-0. Let’s leave the jury out on Murray.
…A word about the Canadiens penalty killing, which was for the most part Plekanec and Bournival up front early in the game and Plekanec and Gionta in the second and third periods. On defence it was mostly Gorges and Diaz. The Canadiens entered the game ranked 15th among the league’s penalty killing teams. In this gamethey looked like number one.
…..One other note on Douglas Murray. Among Canadiens defencemen he logged the third most penalty killing time in the game at 3:07. As stated, best we reserve opinion on him for a while.
…..And lastly, at this moment I can’t think of a better backup goaltender in the NHL than Peter Budaj is, and has been over the last 10 months. In his last 15 appearances which includes 12 starts Budaj has a 10-1-1 record. His goals against average over that time is 2.01 and his save percentage .921. That’s from somebody who plays every couple of weeks or so.
Moving On – The Canadiens chartered back to Montreal right after the game. They’ll host the Dallas Stars Tuesday at the Bell Centres. It will be the Stars second game in 24 hours as well following their 4-3 Monday night win in Buffalo. Then it’s off to Minnesota and Colorado on Friday and Saturday.