If you flipped over to the NFL Monday Night Game once the Habs fell behind 3-0 you got what you deserved – a dud of a match up between the previously unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans, highlighted by a post-game school yard insult delivered by J.J. Watt to an incredulous Andy Dalton who’s over-the-top reaction was even more juvenile. Didn’t Dalton ever learn about “sticks and stones”? This guy is not Super Bowl ready.
While the Bengals and Texans were doing their best to mute Chris Berman the Habs took control of the game, thanks mainly to their league leading fourth shorthanded goal of the season. Once they finally beat Jakob Markstrom it seemed only a matter of how long it would take to come all the way back. Turns out they needed an extra three and a half minutes to win their first ever 3 on 3 overtime.
The ice was definitely tilted over the final 35 minutes as Montreal outshot Vancouver 27-15. Yet Henrik Sedin called it “probably our best road game of the season”. Did Henrik miss the Canucks five road wins? Or is it possible Brandon Prust went heavy on the bottles at his team dinner the night before? On the other hand, the Sedins always keep it classy. And red wine is always preferable to a whine.
- P.K. Subban. He knew he mucked up against the Avalanche. He had skipped the morning optional and didn’t play well. So there he was on game day vs Vancouver on the ice in the morning then talking afterwards about how he had some make up work to do. Subban was determined to be a difference maker and once the Habs closed the gap he was a man on a mission to win it. His perfect feed 3:24 into OT did just that. His entire night was a slow build to that moment. When he’s on like this there is no better defenseman in the NHL.
- Tomas Fleischmann. Big time way to celebrate 600 career games in NHL. With the clock ticking away, Fleischmann smartly played the puck off the boards to easily get by rookie defenseman Ben Hutton which gave him plenty of time to beat Markstrom for his 5th goal of the season. And there he was in OT helping to set up the winner. In an attempt to add needed scoring depth on the wings this season GM Marc Bergevin made one trade and signed two free agents. At least he’s batting .333.
- David Desharnais. Once Subban got the puck on Desharnais’s stick it was game over. The Habs (#3?) centre owns a career shooting percentage of over 16%. He wasn’t about to miss on the one-timer. It was a perfectly placed shot inside the goal post and too quick for Markstrom to get his glove on it. Desharnais is well on his way to setting a career high in goals scored (16). So far this season he’s shooting at 22.2%. After a couple of so-so efforts the Desharnais-Weise-Fleischmann trio was back in form. And now, it seems, some of the same people who have spent seasons dumping on Desharnais, want him to help dig a former 40 goal scorer out of a hole that’s so deep you can almost see Russia on the other side.
- Tomas Plekanec-Brendan Gallagher-Max Pacioretty. Another solid night at the office. Pacioretty’s important goal – his first non empty netter in 10 games – was a tap in from the crease after Gallagher jumped on a turnover and fired at the net. The Canucks thought Pacioretty should have been penalized for upending Chris Tanev behind the net which prompted the turnover but all the Habs captain did in the chase for the puck was tap Tanev on the knee pad. The Vancouver defenseman went down way too easily. A couple of seconds after referee Gord Dwyer shouted “No! No!” the Habs cut the Canucks lead to one. Pacioretty has picked up a point in five straight games. So has Gallagher (3 goals, 7 points).
- Lars Eller. Best game in awhile. His shorthanded goal – a wicked wrist shot while using Devante Smith-Pelly as a decoy – was just what the Habs needed, especially after they had already given up a pair of power play goals to a team that normally struggles with the man advantage. Eller seemed confident after the morning skate that he and his line mates would get it going. He was partly right.
- Alex Galchenyuk. Was going nowhere but to the end of the bench, or so I thought, after taking a bad interference penalty in the neutral zone against Jake Virtanen (I think Galchenyuk is still adjusting to how much stronger he is this season. Virtanen, who is 6’1″ 208 pounds, is not shy physically yet Galchenyuk deposited him on the ice like he was Paul Byron). When Daniel Sedin scored off the face off just five seconds later to make it 3-0 Michel Therrien walked over to assistant coach Daniel Lacroix to whisper in his ear. I thought the message was to keep Galchenyuk on the bench but he never missed a shift. He played angry. And he played a lot better. Another small example of how Therrien has changed his ways. (Some of his ways.)
- Tom Gilbert & Greg Pateryn. Solid again. Gilbert looks at home on the left side. His long pass to set up Eller was his first point of the season.
- Power Play. It went 0-4 but that was a very good looking o-fer. They had 10 seemingly high quality shots on goal but Markstrom was at his best.
- Jeff Petry & Nathan Beaulieu. Horrid start as they were victimized just over 90 seconds in, the 5th time in 6 games the Habs have allowed the first goal. Mostly a non-factor 5 on 5, they slowly worked things out until it mattered the most. It was somewhat fitting they both assisted on Fleischmann’s game tying goal with barely three minutes to play.
- Mike Condon. His numbers continue to drop to what you’d expect from a backup (.918 save pct). The Daniel Sedin goal was simply brutal. Even the Jared McCann power play goal that made it 2-0 didn’t look good. Yes McCann was by himself at the side of the net but Condon was in no position to stop the puck after he had committed fully to a shot from Henrik Sedin who wisely froze the Habs rookie before dishing to McCann. Condon was flinching a lot and looked almost as small in the net as Dustin Tokarski. But, to his credit, he never allowed a fourth goal and eventually won the game. Bottom line.
- Chris Higgins. For old time’s sake. He had a chance to win the game for Vancouver in overtime with the puck on his stick and nobody between him and Condon. He fired it over the net. The Habs took it down the ice and won the game. Afterwards Higgins said “I personally don’t like it (3 on 3)”. You knew there was a whine coming.
- Gallagher high stick on Daniel Sedin. There was more blood on Daniel’s forehead and face than we saw on Ronda Rousey after she was kayoed by Holly Holm. It was a striking combination: pale complexion, blue eyes and all that red. Like the proud French flag.
- Alex Semin. Now what? You know as a former goal scorer you’re in trouble when…1) Dale Weise is on the second power play unit at RW. 2)You can’t get on the ice with your team down by one in the third period. 3)You’ve played two straight games without getting a shot on goal. 4)You’ve played two straight games and taken two bad penalties. 5)You don’t show up for the optional morning skate even though you’ve played one game in three weeks. 6)You don’t show for the optional and get a total of 6:48 of ice time. It seems clear that Semin can’t keep up with the pace of play. That’s not to say he can’t do good things when he has the puck on his stick in the offensive zone but the results aren’t there. And once the puck leaves the zone he’s useless. The power play has been ignited without him. A year ago Semin scored six goals in 57 games or an 82 game rate of .863 goals per game. This season, he has one goal in 12 games or a projected season total of .683. Those are the same numbers.