Well, that was pretty incredible. For full disclosure, I didn’t have high hopes for the excitement or intensity level. Sure, the Canadiens won their last one against the Wild with a lopsided score of 8-1, but two low-scoring teams that rarely face eachother don’t exactly scream out rivalry. But I was wrong. There were hits, there was nastiness after the whistle and there was some scoring dramatics. It was far from pretty, with the Canadiens coughing up a 4-1 lead in the last 4 minutes of the 3rd period and needing to go to a shootout to put this one away.
The Canadiens opened the scoring 2:33 into the first, on a powerplay goal by P.K Subban, assists going to Tomas Kaberle and David Desharnais. Less than 3 minutes later, they would double the lead to 2-0 on another powerplay marker by Lars Eller, with the passes going to Scott Gomez and Chris Campoli. In the last five minutes of the first, Matt Kassian would score his first NHL goal to cut the lead to 2-1. There was a lot of nastiness in this period, particularly between Stephane Veilleux and Ryan White. They fought immediately when the puck dropped in the game, as well as a second time after Veilleux attempted to slash Carey Price. On the play, White picked up 22 minutes of penalties.
In the second, Max Pacioretty would score his team leading 26th of the season, from Desharnais and P.K Subban) also on the powerplay to stretch the lead to 3-1. In the third, a pretty play by Desharnais and Pacioretty would result in Desharnais potting in a rebound to make it 4-1. But beginning at the 16:07 mark of the 3rd period, the Wild would take advantage of the Canadiens taking their foot off the gas, as well as some sloppy d-zone work by both Price and his defenders, and score 3 straight courtesy of Kassian‘s 2nd, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. The tying goal would be scored immediately after Pacioretty was hauled down in plain view in front of the referee going for the empty net, which is normally and habitually a penalty. The Bell Centre crowd, after a night of chippy play between the teams, was not happy with the work of the refs in this one. Needless to say, Pierre Champoux’s 1500th game was not his best night.
The Canadiens would dominate the OT period, but only managed to put two shots on net despite controlling the play. In the shootout, only Desharnais would put one past Josh Harding. Pacioretty, the first shooter, was stopped, as well as Rene Bourque who went third. For the Wild, both Matt Cullen and Dany Heatley were stopped. In a rather amusing twist, Devin Setoguchi lost both the puck and his footing on his attempt, falling to the ice without ever getting a shot on goal to win it for the Canadiens. Not his finest moment, and not the prettiest win, but the Canadiens will take it!
In a rather physical affair, Alexei Emelin really stood out. He made some great hits, some borderline ones, but all in all was a force to be reckoned with. I can’t recall the last time the Canadiens iced a player who can make opposing forwards think twice about crossing into the d-zone with their head down. Subban does it on occasion, Komisarek did it on occasion. But Emelin does so on almost every shift, and multiple times a game. It was an impressive game. He was credited with 7 hits in 20:35 of icetime. But it’s 8 if you count the one on Erik Cole! The other honorable mention on D for the Canadiens was P.K Subban. He played a whopping 30:48 tonight, staggering when you remember that he’s 22 year old sophomore. He dominated on both ends of the ice, had 1G 1A. A slight blemish is his -2, when he was on the ice for two goals at the end of the game, one of which he was caught watching the play (along with the rest of his teammates).
For the forwards, once again the top line of David Desharnais, Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty tore apart the opposing club. David Desharnais is really embracing his role as the top line centre of this team. He has great vision, which compensates for slightly below average skating ability. Earlier in the season, I was pondering whether his play was carried by playing with the two best wingers of the team, or whether he was carrying them. I would now argue that his vision has created a perfect situation for his linemates. He has hit the 50 points plateau for the first time in his career at the NHL level, in only his second season. They complement eachother really well and Desharnais is really an excellent centreman. He finished the night with 1G 2A and the winning SO goal, Pacioretty ended with 1G 1A while Cole ended pointless and -3. Cole played well, but did get caught on a few goals against tonight. I do believe that he’s still harboring an injury, but all in all he played quite well. The late minute collapse was a team failure, so the +- numbers can be interpreted many ways.
Price was stellar up until the last 4 minutes of the period. Not totally his fault, but he was nonchalant and created some turnovers that resulted in goals. He finished the evening with an important SO win but with a sub-.900 save percentage again (0.866).
For your viewing pleasure, two notable plays from tonight.
The first, the Devin Setoguchi shootout fail: Devin Setoguchi Fail!
The second, the Emelin hit that ended up being dished out to Erik Cole: Emelin Boom!