Canadiens Hold Off Islanders, Win 5-3
The New York Islanders were in town on Tuesday night, looking to steal two points from the Habs on home-ice. It didn't work out that way, however, and the Canadiens were able to win their second game in a row with help from a few unexpected scorers.
The first period featured a lot of scoring, for a Canadiens game anyway. Things didn't start off all that well as Lars Eller took an interference penalty just 40 seconds in, which put the Habs stellar penalty kill to work right off the bat. They managed to kill the penalty fairly easily, without the Islanders providing much of a threat. The first five minutes didn't contain a whole lot of excitement other than rebound opportunity for Erik Cole that Montoya was able to stop with the pad. The Canadiens would get an opportunity on the power play as Mark Streit took a hooking penalty, but nothing came of it. While the power play is looking a little more organized, there is still progress to be made. Turnovers have been the demise of the Canadiens defense this season, and it continued when PK Subban turned the puck over in his own end. P.A. Parentau took advantage and found Matt Moulson who easily made a move past Price to tuck the puck in the net.
The Habs would not be silenced that easily and responded with a goal of their own, coming from the stick of Andrei Kostitsyn who did most of the work on the play himself. He got assists from Tomas Plekanec and Tomas Kaberle – who registered his 3rd assist in just 4 periods in a Canadiens uniform. The Habs wouldn't stop there though, as Mathieu Darche got a rare goal to go past Al Montoya as he took a slapshot that the netminder simply could not handle. Petteri Nokelainen got the assist on that one. Overall the period had a lot of back-and-forth action, with the Islanders being in the offensive zone more than the Habs, but the Habs seeing more quality scoring chances. Total shots after twenty minutes were 7-6 in favour of the Islanders.
The start of the second provided more of the same with both teams going back-and-forth somewhat, but this time it was the Canadiens with the slight advantage in possession. The first real scoring chance of any kind came when PK Subban decided to take the puck into the zone a little ways and have a shot, which left him trailing as the Islanders made their way down the ice. Lars Eller was there to break up the play, however, and no danger would come of it. Not much went on for the next few minutes other than P.A. Parenteau taking a penalty for tripping that the Habs were unable to take advantage of.
Hal Gill took a penalty for delay of game in a moment of panic when Carey Price nearly turned the puck over to the Islanders, leaving them an empty net. Luckily for the Habs, Gill was able to get to the puck, but sent it over the glass on the clear attempt. The Penalty Kill looked pretty good for the most part, but were bailed out in a big way by Carey Price, who came up with a big save against Milan Jurcina at point blank range. Twelve minutes in the Habs would go on their third power play chance of the night, as David Ullstrom served two minutes for a too many men penalty. This power play looked much more calm and under control, with a few chances that easily could have found the net.
The two teams played 4 on 4 for a while when rookie Louis Leblanc sat for goaltender interference, and P.A. Parenteau was penalized for roughing. Neither side was able to generate any real scoring chances on the 4 on 4. PK Subban was shaken up by Matt Martin who shoved him into the boards, and was given a penalty for boarding with only a minute and a half remaining in the period. The power play looked good at the end of the second, but despite having control of the puck in the offensive zone for much of it, they weren't able to convert. Shots on goal in the second were 15-9 for the Canadiens, bringing the total to 21-16 in favour of the Habs. Despite no goals going in in the second, there were quite a few good chances.
The Canadiens would start the third on a power play for 36 seconds, and wasted little time in taking advantage. The Habs finally scored a power play goal with Subban sending the puck over to David Desharnais, who found Cole right in front of the net for the goal to give the team some breathing room, increasing the lead to 3-1. The Islanders would respond a while later when Josh Bailey faked out Price in front of the net to cut the lead to 1. More danger would ensue shortly after, but Carey Price was able to preserve the lead. There was a scary moment when Erik Cole broke up the ice, only to be brought down by Steve Staios, which sent Cole hurling towards the net. Cole looked hurt on the play, but managed to stay in the game. Minutes later Cole broke down the ice with an identical chance, which knocked the net off, and almost got into the rough stuff with Travis Hamonic, but nothing came of it.
Frans Nielsen had a great opportunity to tie the game, but Price was able to stretch out his pads and maintain the lead. The Islanders would eventually tie the game however, as John Tavares slid the puck past Price during a scuffle in front of the net. It didn't take long for the Habs to answer with a goal of their own, taking a lead once again. Petteri Nokelainen had just jumped off the bench and entered the zone when a pass from Lars Eller found his stick, and he blasted one past Montoya to take a 4-3 lead with just six minutes remaining. Not much happened for the rest of the period until the Islanders pulled the goalie in a desperate attempt to tie the game, but Hal Gill immediately dumped the puck the length of the ice and into the net to put the nail in the coffin on this game. Yes, Hal Gill scored the put-away goal. I'll let that sink in a little.
So the Habs win a second straight game, this time in a contest that really could have gone either way. With back-to-back wins becoming more and more rare for the Canadiens, this is a welcome change and something the team, and it's fans will certainly hope to see more of. For now, the Habs can rejoice with a 5-3 win over the Islanders, but the focus will soon be shifting to Thursday night, when they go head-to-head with the Philadelphia Flyers in Montreal.
3rd Star: Matt Moulson
2nd Star: Erik Cole
1st Star: Petteri Nokelainen