The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Colorado Avalanche 6-3 on home ice last night in the return of legendary Habs goaltender Patrick Roy to the city. Much of the buzz after the game was about Habs hired sniper Thomas Vanek scoring a hat trick, his first three goals as a member of the Canadiens.
Yes, hat tricks are very rare and exciting, especially when you were just starting to think Vanek was never going to score a goal with the Habs. But when is the last time the Habs fourth line scored a hat trick of sorts themselves?
Travis Moen was the first of the fourth liners to find the back of the Avalanche net. With the Habs trailing midway through the second period, it was a wonderful diving effort by Brandon Prust to knock a loose puck to Travis Moen to set up the goal. Moen gathered the puck and spun around to his backhand and fired a shot past Jean Sebastien Giguere to tie the game.
Early in the third period, the trio cycled the puck around the Avalanche end for a full minute against the Avs top defense pairing of Jan Hejda and Erik Johnson. The Habs trio used their size and smarts to win battles and keep control of the puck.
After completely tiring out all five Colorado skaters, the Habs got the puck back to the point to Andrei Markov. Markov made a nifty move with the puck before finding Prust open in the slot with a precise pass. Prust made no mistake one timing the puck over the shoulder of an exhausted Giguere to give the Habs a 3-2 lead.
After some Vanek power play heroics, the Habs found themselves protecting a two goal lead with over two minutes remaining, and the Avalanche net empty in favor of an extra attacker.
Colorado put an impressive lineup of Paul Stastny, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly, Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie on the ice to push to tie the game. As us Habs fans saw on Saturday night, a game is not over when you have a two goal lead with two minutes remaining.
The line Montreal used to counter the superstar sextet of Avalanche snipers was the fourth trio of Prust between, Moen and Weise. It was a sign of confidence from Head Coach Michel Therrien that he trusts his veteran fourth line to play against the best competition.
Considering how well they played last night, it was a confidence that was earned. The threesome averaged 11 minutes of ice time each, and outshot their competition 9-1 while on the ice together last night. In a nutshell, they flat out dominated their opposition, and were as much a part of the two points earned in the standings as anyone else on the roster.
Dale Weise ultimately iced the game with an empty netter, becoming the third member of the line to find the back of the net in the contest.
The final stats on the night for the line: 3 goals, 1 assist, 8 shots on net, 5 hits, 3 blocked shots and a Dale Weise fight against Cody McLeod.
Having a versatile fourth line that can be as responsible as Moen, Prust and Weise, and will throw some offensive numbers into the mix now and again will prove very useful when the NHL playoffs begin next month.
Long gone are the days when defenseman Yannick Weber suits up as a winger on a line with Georges Laraque, and the Montreal Canadiens are benefitting greatly.