With the threat of losing their hold on first place in the Atlantic Division for the first time since October 20th, one would assume their would be a sense of urgency but the Canadiens sleep-walked their way through the first two periods of the game, generating only 16 shots. They finally turned it on in the third period by coming from behind twice and barely escaping with an overtime win with three nanswered goals.
The win was messy and similar all of the bad things we’ve been seeing with this team over the last two months.
And where would the Canadiens be if Max Pacioretty had not been available to pick the team up and carry it on his back this month?
Pacioretty had eight shots on goal in the game, five of them in the third period. With the two in this game he has moved into second place in the goal scoring race with 31, three behind Sidney Crosby. The Canadiens haven’t done an awful lot in February but whatever success they’ve had can be attributed to Pacioretty. In the twelve games this month Pacioretty has seven goals which is nearly half of the fifteen total goals scored by the team’s forwards. (Radulov and Galchenyuk are second with three each).
In his own way, Alexander Radulov was as responsible for this win as Pacioretty. His name and imprint was on all four of the Canadiens goals. When John Moore threaded that shot through four bodies to make it 2-0 you could sense a whole city reaching for the off button on their TV remotes. Radulov changed their minds for them only eleven seconds later when he made one of his extraordinary moves on the Devils defense and scored to make it a one-goal game again. He then drew assists on the last three goals including the Alex Galchenyuk’s overtime winner.
STILL WAITING –
Galchenyuk scored the overtime winner and has three points his last two games. Even so, there are questions about where his career is going to take him.
Galchednyuk has now played more than 300 NHL games through five seasons and still hasn’t been able to establish a role for himself.
Is he a centre or a winger? Will he ever be dependable defensively. Will he near fifty percent in faceoffs? Michel Therrien was criticized for the way he was handled. Now it’s Claude Julien’s turn to worry about the Canadiens top draft choice in a couple of decades. In this game Julien started Galchenyuk as a centre and wound up sending back to left when where he worked on three different lines with little success until the overtime power play that decided the game.
The whole idea of Galchenyuk filling the role of a big first line centre is wearing thin about now.
Al Montoya made 34 saves in the game many of them excellent but none bigger than his stop of Stefan Noesen’s breakaway with just under three minutes remaining in regulation time and the Canadiens trailing 3-2. He was also very good on John Moore in the overtime. This was only Montoya’s seventh start since December 29th but he has a record of 5-1-1 over that stretch.
NUMBER CRUNCHING –
….Pacioretty is only the fifth in Canadiens history with four consecutive thirty goal seasons, joining Steve Shutt who had nine, Guy Lafleur with six, plus Rocket Richard and Yvan Cournoyer. In actuality, Pacioretty has 30 goals in each of the last five full NHL seasons. The streak was interrupted by the lockout-shortened 2013 season during which he scored 14 goals in 37 games.
….Pacioretty has 10 goals in his last 13 games and leads the entire league in goals since early Decmber with 26 in 39 games.
….Another energetic effort from Andrew Shaw which included five shots on goal.
….If he could ever put together four or five games in a row of the kind he showed against New Jersey, Nathan Beaulieu would be a top pairing defenseman. Nobody on the team moved the puck better than he did in this game.
….The Canadiens now have 76 points. If 93 points becomes the playoff cutoff point, the Canadiens need 17 in their remaining 19 games to take part in the post season show.
MOVING ON –
The Canadiens finish the month of February with their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. They are on a four game home losing streak and a 4-8-3 in their last 15 at home going back to December 12th. After the Blue Jackets, there will be Wednesday 3.00pm trade deadline and on Thursday it will be Nashville at the Bell Centre with all of the attendant hoo-haw surrounding P.K. Subban’s first ever game against the Canadiens.
The Canadiens are now guaranteed of holding first place in the Atlantic Division at least into next week.