Top to bottom the Canadiens were solid at both ends of the ice, but most notably in the neutral zone where the Senators game seemed to die time for a good portion of the night. It was a rare night when an entire line was named to the game’s three stars. And We had two defensemen and a forward who had been recent stints in the press box to become big contributors. But, as has been the case so often over the last month, we start in goal.
THE MIRACLE WORKER –
There always seems to be a moment when Carey Price will make that save that nobody else on the planet can make.
Price’s game changing moment came late in the second period with the Canadiens leading 2-1. As that point in the game they were dominating the Senators from a possession standpoint but not being rewarded on the scoreboard. At 16.55 Kyle Turris took a goal mouth pass and one timed the puck towards what looked like an empty net and what seemed like a sure game-tying goal. Somehow Price got across to put the toe of his skate on the shot. Who knows how the momentum of the game might have changed had Turris been able to tie it the game up. Price made some other excellent saves, but this one felt like the game-changer. As it was Byron and Beaulieu scored in the third period to cement the win.
Claude Julien has had Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron on Tomas Plekanec’s wings for three games now. Together the line looks like a keeper. The three of them made up the entire post game three star selection and deservedly so. Their speed dominated the game every shift and produced eleven shots on goal and two of the four goals including the opener from Plekanec and the game winner from Byron, which incidentally and sensationally considering he was a waiver claim from Calgary, was his 20th of the season.
The differences between the coaching of Claude Julien and Michel Therrien seem to be subtle, and may be more on the psychological rather than the technical level. All four lines were solid and confident in this game. In his first 14 games behind the bench Julien seems to have settled on his top three lines. One should not underestimate how difficult a time the Senators had playing against the third line of Danault, Shaw and Lehkonen in this game.
Julien is trying to keep all seven of his defensemen fresh as we move toward the playoffs. Two of them, Alexei Emelin and Nathan Beaulieu have had some rough spots over the last few games. As a result, Beaulieu was healthy scratch against Chicago and Emelin twice in the last five games while Julien utilized newcomer Brandon Davidson. The two of them played an important role in this game. Beaulieu scored the clinching fourth goal . Emelin led the Canadiens with five hits, but more than importantly, his game was much more organized that it was against Calgary and Chicago last week when he was a combined minus-6.
SLOW ON THE DRAW –
Claude Julien made the mistake of letting Alex Galchenyuk take a defensive zone faceoff in the fifth minute of the game. Galchenyuk lost it to Jean-Gabriel Pageau and three seconds later the puck was behind Carey Price. Galchenyuk was allowed to take only two more faceoffs in his own end, one of them following an icing. He lost both of those and wound up winning only 5 of 16 on the night for 31%. I’m still really mixed on Galchenyuk’s chemistry with Radulov and Pacioretty. Quite frankly, they contributed the least of the four forward lines in not only this game but the one Saturday night in Ottawa.
….Along with one of his best games in two months, Tomas Plekanec won 14 of 22 faceoffs. The goal he scored was his first in 20 games dating back to January 24th vs. Calgary.
….Carey Price continues to raise his statistical profile. He is 8-1-0 over his last nine games. In six of those games he’s allowed just one goal and a total of 14 over the nine games which adds up to a 1.53 GAA and .942 save percentage.
….A few games watching from the press box seems to have helped Mike McCarron. He returned to the fourth line and was a physically imposing figure and the line with Dwight King on the other wing was a very tough and sizeable opponent.
MOVING ON –
This was the first of a six game home stand which continues against Detroit Tuesday and Carolina Thursday.. The Canadiens now have a four point Atlantic Division lead with Ottawa still holding a game in hand. The Senators are in Boston Tuesday and home to Pittsburgh on Thursday before they play the Canadiens at the Bell Centre Saturday.