The Montreal Canadiens head into the Olympic break riding high thanks to a victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
The break comes at the wrong time for the suddenly hot Habs. Montreal has won their last three contests, after taking out the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks on home ice and now defeating the Hurricanes in Raleigh.
The game started on a scary note for Habs fans, when Max Pacioretty drove towards the Canes net and was knocked off stride and fell heavily into the goal post. He writhed in pain on the ice for several minutes before being helped off the ice by the Canadiens trainer.
Pacioretty did not return to the game, playing a total of just over four minutes tonight. Fear of any serious injury was thankfully squashed when TSN’s Bob MacKenzie tweeted that Max is expected to join his American teammates in Sochi tomorrow. It was a huge sigh of relief for Habs fans, but also makes you wonder if Pacioretty was left out of this game so as to not jeopardize his chances of representing his country in the Olympic Games.
anyway, so there is no point in pouting over whether he took the night off to prepare for his trip overseas tomorrow.
It was Pacioretty’s line that stepped up in his absence. Rene Bourque moved up to play alongside David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher. Drayson Bowman opened the scoring for the Hurricanes, but Desharnais finished off a nifty end to end passing play by the newest Habs line to tie the game late in the second.
Just over a minute later, and with less than a minute to go in the middle frame, Brandon Prust kept the play alive by keeping the puck in the Canes zone. When a Lars Eller shot was stopped by Anton Khudobin and bounced back to the point, Andrei Markov unleashed a slap shot but was also stopped. Ryan White gathered in the Markov rebound and slid it underneath the Carolina goalkeeper to put the Habs on top heading into the third period. It would stand as the game winning goal.
Desharnais extended the lead to two when he finished off a rush started by Nathan Beaulieu, giving him his first multi goal game of the season. It was the 11th goals of Desharnais’ campaign, and if not for a miserable start, he would be well on his way to a 20 goal season.
Carey Price would shut the door on any chance of a Hurricane comeback. He was once again fantastic, stopping 31 of 32 shots fired his way and keeping Carolina from ever extending their lead to two goals.
Canadiens captain Brian Gionta finished off the Canes when he scored on an empty net wrap-around with two minutes remaining.
The win gives the Habs 70 points in the standings in 59 pre-Olympic games. This has the Canadiens sitting third in the Atlantic Division behind the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. This was an enormous two points for the Habs, as a loss would have dropped them behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, and into the first Wildcar spot in the standings throughout the lengthy layoff.
The Canadiens next game is in 18 days, when they play host to the Detroit Red Wings on February 26th.