The Canadiens . survived a late surge by the Tampa Bay Lightning to force their game into overtime and then a shootout and came away with a 2-1 victory . Lars Eller scored the only goal of the shootout. Tomas Plekanec gave the Canadiens a 1-0 early in the second period and Martin St. Louis tied the game up six minutes later. At that point the goaltenders, Carey Price and Ben Bishop took over. Final shots on goal were 24-21 in favour of TampaBay. The Lightning outshot the Canadiens in the third period. The TampaBay three star selection was Price, Bishop and Tampa rookie foreward Ondrej Palat.
Adding It Up –
What Did You Expect? - One team, the Canadiens had been away from the rink for seven days, the other five days. For two and a half periods, while the teams shook off the rust and the Christmas turkey, this was a terrible hockey game. There were only ten shots in the first period, seven by the Canadiens. The Lightning failed to get a shot on Price through the first eleven minutes. The second period was more of the same. The Canadiens outshooting the Lightning 8-6. That kind of night.
Shaking The Rust – It was the Lightning who got it together first. In the first half of the third period it was all Carey Price. After having to deal with four scoring chances through the first two periods, shots on goal were 10-2 at the ten minute mark of the third and five of the ten shots were legitimate scoring opportunities. Price stopped them all.
Wake Up Call – There wasn’t much to say about the Canadiens forwards in this game but through the final ten minutes of the game, David Desharnais was clearly their best, far ahead of his linemates Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher.
Toughing It Out – Pacioretty took a deflected puck in the face in the first period and left for what turned out to be extensive repairs. The damage was two teeth gone and 21 stitches which took a full half hour on the clock to complete. Not much else to say, except he was part of the Canadiens best line in the third period and overtime.
Mixed Review – Rene Bourque, playing with Plekanec and Gionta, seemed to be mentally engaged in the game. At the other end of the ice, there are always questions about his dedication. This game was no exception.
Man Advantage – The Canadiens power play is in a bad slump. Through their two power plays in the game they failed to register a shot on goal and scared no-one with their playmaking.
Showcasing – If this were a Steve Yzerman final audition before his decision next week on the makeup of his Olympic roster, I would think Carey Price and P.K. Subban are in pretty good shape. Price couldn’t have been better and Subban, despite an error that cost a scoring chance in the third period. had a pretty good game defensively, which always seems to be thorn in everyone’s side when it comes to assessing his talent. He took a penalty in the game, but in so doing, took away a big Tampa scoring chance by hooking down Nikita Kucherov in the process.
About Price – Goaltenders will tell you that one of their toughest challenges comes when they go half, or in this case two/thirds of a game without any work and then suddenly be faced with a barrage. Carey Price saw only nine shots through the first two periods and, I would be generous is saying four of those were moderately tough scoring chances. Through the first ten minutes of the third he stopped ten before Canadiens could offer any kind of response. After allowing just one, Price’s goals against average drops to 2.06.
Also Worth Mentioning ……The Canadiens hit the goalpost behind Tampa goaltender Ben Bishop three times. Rene Bourque, Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov all hit the iron…..Josh Gorges returned from his ankle/foot injury without missing a beat. He tied for the team lead in hits (3), blocked shots (3) and logged 19:18 ice time. ….…We should never pass over the work of the Canadiens fourth line of White, Prust and Moen. Again, they again had a very good night, especially Prust. Brendan Gallagher looks like his game has hit the wall. He did share the team lead in shots on goal with 3 and missed a couple of times, but he’s not accomplishing a lot out there despite his never ending effort. …..From the stats sheet – Markov had the most ice time 26:47 followed by Subban 26:31. Gallagher and Bouillon led with 3 shots on goal each. The only faceoff man over .500 was Lars Eller, who won five of six.
Moving On – The Canadiens, now 2-1-0 on their six game road trip, face the Florida Panthers Sunday at 5.00 before moving on to play Carolina on New Year’s Eve. With the win the Canadiens move to within a point of Tampa Bay for second in the Atlantic Division and five points behind Boston for the division lead. Boston lost 4-3 in Ottawa Saturday night. The Bruins and Canadiens have now each played 39 games, the Lightning 38. In the Eastern Conference the Canadiens have a reasonably comfortable hold on fourth place, four points ahead of Detroit with a game in hand.