The Canadiens finally scored on their 37th shot on goal and again on their 38th just over a minute later and then popped in two empty net goals to win the game 4-1.
The Canadian West has been a mortuary for the Canadiens over the last fifteen years, so taking two of three games out there is noteworthy.
This one was made more important because it allowed the Canadiens to take back the lead in the Atlantic Division from Ottawa which will set up one of the most interesting regular season weeks in years with the Canadiens facing the Senators three times in eight days.
If there an award for poor ‘puck luck’ in the NHL’s 2016-2017 season, Brendan Gallagher would be one of the front runners. Since he came back from his broken hand he has been the hardest working member of the Canadiens on a nightly basis and his only reward in eleven games was a goal against Nashville, albeit an important one that sent the game into overtime.
There is no question from which direction the positive energy came in this game. Gallagher was all over the ice. Through the first two periods he led both teams with six shots on goal. It was his effort down deep against some fierce checking that started the sequence leading to the goal that tied the game at one. Nobody has earned the right to have a productive stretch to his season that Gallagher after the kind of year he has had.
ABOUT A GOALTENDER –
Carey Price may be another to have shaken the monkey from his back.
Since he came into the league ten years ago, no NHL team has frustrated him more than the Oilers. Price went into this game with seven consecutive losses against Edmonton dating back to March 2009. He had one career win and had never won in Edmonton. Two minutes before Byron put the Canadiens on the board at 13:33 of the third period Price shut down a Draisaitl to Maroon goalmouth pass and seconds used his glove hand on a labeled shot by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
All you ask is that you goaltender give a team a chance to win. For the ninth straight game, Price did that. It was Price’s 6th straight win on the road by the way.
Paul Byron was considered doubtful for this game after fighting off a flu bug on Saturday. There he was doing what he does, which is using his speed to beat almost everyone on the ice to the puck. Byron slipped past the Oilers defense to take Phillip Danault’s pass for the tying goal and then Claude Julien had him on the ice in the final minute to protect a one goal lead and wound up adding his 18th goal of the season and an assist. Eighteen goals make him the Canadiens second leading scorer behind Max Pacioretty’s 32.
ONE FOR THE COACH –
Some credit to Claude Julien. He started shuffling his lines as early as the second period and by the third had settled on Pacioretty up on the line with Galchenyuk and Radulov and the combination of Danault/Gallagher Byron.
Those lines won the game for the Canadiens.
….The fourth line had some things to say in this game. Steve Ott led the Canadiens with four hits and seemed to have a running thing going with the Oilers first line left wing Patrick Maroon. Mike McCarron was in a vigorous first period scrap with Darnell Nurse and Dwight King did a lot of the dog work in the corners.
….Lots of energy from the third line too. Especially Andrew Shaw, although he made us wince when he picked up that tripping penalty in the offensive zone while he was on a power play.
….Jeff Petry shared the game lead in shots with Gallagher at six. He also blocked six shots.
….With Tomas Plekanec out with his injury, the Canadiens had a rough night at the faceoff dots. Galchenyuk was best at 42%. Mitchell won only 4 of 15.
,,,,Full marks to one-half of the special teams. The penalty killing was excellent especially during that four minute high sticking penalty to Alexei Emelin. The power play looked terrible for the tenth straight game.
MOVING ON –
In light of the Canadiens history in Alberta and British Columbia four of a possible six points is a totally respectable way to finish that road trip.
Canadiens return home to face Chicago Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. That game is a prelude to the Senators series which starts home and home in Ottawa next Saturday and Sunday in Montreal. The Canadiens will then face Detroit and Carolina at home Tuesday and Thursday before they play the Senators again the following Saturday at the Bell Centre. All part of a six game home stand to finish the month of March.