It took the Montreal Canadiens more than 62 minutes, and a questionable penalty shot call before they could solve New York Rangers rookie goaltender Cam Talbot, but it was enough for two points in the standings.
Those two points give the Canadiens an impressive 100 on the regular season, and for the moment at least, places them second in the Atlantic Division. The Tampa Bay Lightning will be the Habs opponent in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but with a win this afternoon, the Lightning could recapture home ice advantage.
The Rangers and Canadiens played a scoreless 60 minutes, thanks to exceptional goaltending by Talbot and the Habs Carey Price. Price stopped all 41 shots he faced to earn his 6th shutout of the season, and Talbot turned aside all 26 non penalty shots to give the Rangers their 95th point in the standings.
Price was his usual dominant self in this game, and should have Habs fans feeling comfortable about his game heading into the postseason. Price has faced 71 shots in his final two tune-ups before the playoffs, and stopped 69 of them against the pair of New York teams. There is no question Price is the key to any success the Habs are going to have in the playoffs, and he appears ready to carry the load.
Captain Brian Gionta made a great defensive play in overtime to set himself up for a breakaway, but he was hauled down by former Hab Raphael Diaz. It is my understanding the player who is fouled on a breakaway has to be in possession of the puck in order to receive a penalty shot. Gionta had chipped the puck quite far out of his reach, and it appeared Cam Talbot had the best chance of playing the puck when Gionta had his feet pulled out from underneath him.
Surely a penalty was warranted, but the referee decided to go with a penalty shot for the Habs winger. If anyone deserves a call to go his way, it is Brian Gionta, and he took full advantage, roofing a backhander past Talbot on the ensuing penalty shot.
The win puts the Canadiens in line to begin the postseason at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night, but they could travel to Tampa Bay if the Lightning are victorious in any fashion against the Washington Capitals who are playing out the string this afternoon.
The Canadiens had plenty of ups and downs this season, and it appeared there was a huge part of their fan base that focused on the downs all year. However, here they are after game 82, with 100 points in the standings, third in the Eastern Conference, and circling home dates on their playoff calendar.