It was the Canadiens third straight victory and kept them in third place in the Atlantic Division heading into the Olympic break.
David Desharnais scored twice for the Canadiens. Ryan White and Brian Gionta got the others. The Gionta goal came into an empty net. The Habs lost Max Pacioretty with an apparent hip injury midway through the first period when he was forced into the Hurricanes goalpost by Brett Bellemore. He did not return. Shots on goal were 32-24 in favour of the Hurricanes. The three stars were Desharnais, Carey Price and Ryan White who was credited with the winning goal.
Adding It Up –
Bottled Up – Through most of the first half of the game the Carolina forecheck was the story of the game. The Canadiens were dominated in the neutral zone and time-after-time were backed up in their own zone by some relentless pressure by the Hurricanes.
Tough Break – Twelve minutes into the game Max Pacioretty used his speed to get a step on defenseman Brett Bellemore who recovered enough to throw a check on him that sent him into the goalpost. Montreal fans might argue there should have been a penalty but to me it appeared to be a hockey play that went wrong for Pacioretty. He left the game with what we found out later was a hip injury. Early reports say he will be OK to head to Sochi, but he didn’t return to the game. UPDATE – Pacioretty told reporters following the game that X-rays were negative and he would be participating in the Olympics.
The Payoff – If the Canadiens were struggling early, the Pacioretty incident seemed to completely deflate the Canadiens bench. In the first six minutes of the second period the shots on goal were 8-2 for Carolina. At 5:42 Carey Price stepped out of the crease but couldn’t control a bouncing puck. The turnover ended with Drayson Bowman putting a screen shot past him to make it 1-0 on that eighth shot.
The Turning Point - David Desharnais was sent off on a questionable interference call at 12:19 of the second. At that point the second period shots were 9-3 for Carolina. Tomas Plekanec and company limited them to one shot on goal and from that point the mood of the game changed.
Getting the Jump – Now it was the Canadiens who were backing up the Carolina defense and two shifts after he got out of the penalty box Desharnais started a play from deep in his end. It went Desharnais to Gallagher to Bourque on a three-on-two and back to Desharnais who scored. Tie game.
The Game Winner - Another defensive letdown 1:26 later when, on a play started by Lars Eller‘s missed shot, Ryan White was left unchecked in front to collect Andrei Markov‘s rebound. And it was the same story on Canadiens third goal. Odd man rush with Beaulieu sending it to Gallagher and over to Desharnais for his second of the night.
Give Him Some Credit – Not that it’s all that important but Carey Price wasn’t mentioned for a star after stopping a season high 42 shots against Vancouver Thursday and the selectors grudgingly gave him only second star billing to Desharnais despite the fact that his work through the first half of the game kept things close and in the final ten minutes he made outstanding saves on Tlusty and Bowman twice to keep it at 3-1.
Olympic Ready – Over his last six games Price has stopped 203 of 210 shots for a .966 save percentage and a goals against average of 1.15.. He is 4-0-1 over that stretch with two shutouts.
Perplexed – Kirk Muller is still trying to figure this one out. For that matter, so am I. Muller pulled his goaltender with over two minutes left and almost immediately the puck was hoisted to the Carolina line where Ryan White appeared to reach up and deflect the puck to Brandon Prust in the corner. Brian Gionta then collected it and scored into the empty net on a wraparound. It’s either/or/. If White touched the puck then it’s a hand pass and play had to be whistled. If he didn’t touch the puck, why then did White get an assist on the play.
Quote of the Night – “(Max Pacioretty) is shooting the puck and doing a lot of things. When he’s not there, somebody’s got to do it. I got set up pretty well. I was just thinking, shoot out there a little bit more.” David Desharnais on his two goals.
Also Worth Mentioning - …..Interesting coaching job on the part of Michel Therrien. He started the game with eleven forwards and then lost Max Pacioretty. He moved Rene Bourque up to play with Desharnais and Gallagher and Bourque did a good job. The Plekanec line remained intact and he mixed and matched Eller with Prust, Weise and White with great effect. …I keep waiting for whatever put Dale Weise in John Tortorella’s doghouse to surface. Hasn’t happened yet. Weise wound up with another 14:02 including some penalty killing time. He may not have great hands but he has speed and on the stats sheet he had 2 hits, 2 blocked shots and 2 takeaways. . ……Something has jacked up Daniel Briere‘s game. Once again he was one of the best Canadiens forwards with four good scoring chances among his six shots on goal. ……If Carey Price looks ready to star at the Olympics, I wonder about where P.K. Subban‘s game is right now. Seems to me he’s back in that groove of trying to do too much on his own. ……From the scoresheet – Shots on goal – Briere-6; Hits-Francis Bouillon-3; Takeaways – Tomas Plekanec -4. Blocked Shots – Subban-4; Faceoffs – Plekaned 12 of 21-57%
Looking Ahead – The Canadiens returned to Montreal after the game and, other than the seven headed for Sochi, they are going to have ten days to relax with family and friends. The next scheduled practice for the team will be Wednesday February 19th in Brossard. The next game will be February 26th vs. Detroit at the Bell Centre.