Rabid Habs

Here Comes Your Habs

Habs' Tomas Plkanec

“We’ve played a lot of good hockey this year. These next couple of games are important for us to continue to pay attention to details and make sure we’re sharp. There’s no doubt in my mind that the power play is where we have to be better. It’s been up and down. This is the time of year where we have to figure out what we have to do to put the puck in the net.” – P.K. Subban

Two-game losses in a row turned to three as the Montreal Canadiens lost three to two in the shootout to the New Jersey Devils on Friday, and Sunday afternoon’s game against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center would be anything but a walk in the park. For the Canadiens, the team has been have only won one of their last six games. Nevertheless, they still have a game in hand on the Tampa Bay Lightning, which means they still have a chance to finish the season with the top spot in the Atlantic Division. However, the Habs were only able to take advantage on just one of seven power play opportunities during Friday night’s game (despite having a full two-minute 4-on-3 power play in overtime) and despite being slightly above their average possession numbers, they have also been struggling to generate offense (with most credit going to the defense for giving the offense perfect set ups to put points on the board) as well as generate goals. On the other side of the ice, the Panthers are coming off a four to nothing loss from the Tampa Bay Lightning, ending Florida’s playoff hopes which is an advantage the Canadiens might want get on. With the Canadiens have taken five of the last six match ups (5-0-1) and three straight in Florida and with the Panthers not seeking a spot in the finals (as well as saviour Carey Price back in the net), the Habs could easily regain sole possession of the division by lightning up the lamp and playing their full 60 minutes. However, Therrien’s troops are still going to need to push twice as hard on the blue line and to get more offensive strategies cooking, or else they will suffer the worst playoffs they’ve ever experienced.

The Canadiens started off the beginning with good aggression, speed, and pressure on the Panthers, which led to a lot of great opportunities for the Habs to put pucks on net. An interference penalty from Dmitry Kulikov (which caused Max Pacioretty to sprawl into the boards and hit the back of his head) and a hi-sticking penalty from Erik Gudbranson led to a five on three play for the Canadiens, which gave Tomas Plakanec the perfect opportunity to give the Habs the first goal (and grab his 200th career goal) of the afternoon at six minutes and 36 seconds (assisted by Andrei Markov and Alex Galchenyuk). The Habs were dominating the period and were able to grab another power play thanks to a Panthers penalty (hooking call for Brandon Pirri) with just five minutes and 55 seconds left. Although they weren’t able to snag another power play point, their strong game efforts had them keeping their one to nothing lead until the clocks ran out.

A fourth power play came for the Canadiens one minute into the second period (thanks to a tripping call on Jussi Jokinen), but the Habs still couldn’t grab another power play goal as the Panthers successfully killed it off. Aaron Ekblad was able to tie the period for the Panthers on the power play just six minutes and 20 seconds into the period (assisted by Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov). However, the Habs were quick to respond and Brendan Gallagher (assisted by P.K. Subban) snapped it home 46 seconds after to break the tie and take back the lead. The Habs were once again playing a strong period, outshooting the Panthers (21-16 overall) and with eight minutes and 33 seconds left, P.A. Parenteau (assisted by Jeff Petry) created his own perfect opportunity with a juicy rebound by Dan Ellis to give the Canadiens a three to one lead which was then later followed by Devante Smith-Pelly seeing his first goal in a Habs uniform with just two minutes and 18 seconds left of the period (assisted by P.A. Parenteau). Despite the Panthers having a higher number in puck possession, the Canadiens still held their four to one lead until the second period was over.

The Canadiens got another opportunity on their fifth power play to put more points on the board (thanks to a tripping call on Jonathan Huberdeau), which was then followed by a five on three advantage (thanks again to a tripping call on Derek Mackenzie). With the Panthers once again killing off the power play, the Habs were making sure to try and stay all over the puck. A penalty against Devante Smith-Pelly for tripping with eight minutes and 52 seconds left gave Florida the opportunity on the power play to be two points away from a tie but Aleksander Barkov’s interference call showed some four on four action on the ice, ending the Panthers power play goal chance. With just five minutes left, the Panthers scrambled to light up the lamp one last time, but the Montreal Canadiens were able to pull off yet another strong performance by killing off the Florida Panthers’ power play and beating them four to two, with Carey Price getting his 42nd win that ties Jacques Plante and Ken Dryden for the team record.

Here are my thoughts on tonight’s game:

  • Tonight’s game was probably one of THE best games the Montreal Canadiens have played in a long time. Despite the nasty hit Max Pacioretty’s head took into the boards, the team stepped up when needed to and killed it out on the ice. Their strong play, their change in offense (which generated pretty nicely throughout the whole 60 minutes), excellent defense, and the hands of Carey Price gave them the win they truly deserved. If the Habs keep playing like this for the next two games, they’ll be able to skate right through the playoffs with flying colours. Therrien switching up the lines a little bit doesn’t seem so bad now, does it? Side note – How about that first goal in a Habs uniform for DSP!? What a great goal set up by P.A. Parenteau. I’m not really missing Jiri Sekac (although I never really missed him in the first place). Congrats to Smith-Pelly! What a beautiful evening.

The Montreal Canadiens play the Detroit Red Wings at the Bell Centre on Thursday at 7:30pm.

(Purchase your Canadiens tickets here. | Achetez vos billets des Canadiens ici.)

Follow Jessica-Lyn on Twitter: @EarlxGreat.