Rabid Habs

High Flying Habs Pt. II

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“It was a good practice. I came into the room and the guys treated me like I had been here for a while. I’m starting to get more comfortable and so far everyone’s treated me very well.” – Devante Smith-Pelly

The Montreal Canadiens were meeting the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second time this month on Thursday night. It was almost less than a week ago that the Canadiens beat the Blue Jackets three to one at the Bell Centre, but tonight at the Nationwide Arena there would be a different energy coming off the Habs, specifically from newcomer Devante Smith-Pelly who would be making his Canadiens debut. This Canadiens would also be looking for a third win in a row against a Blue Jackets team currently on a three-game slide. The Blue Jackets for their part are coming off a four to three shootout loss to the New York Rangers on Sunday and a four to two regulation loss in Columbus against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. With a record of 26-29-4, the Blue Jackets’ chances of making the playoffs are reportedly 0.5%, making the 2014-15 season for Columbus extremely frustrating. Meanwhile, Therrien’s troops were coming off a five to two win against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, thanks to a pair of two-goal efforts from both Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. As of late, the Habs have been playing their best, working hard to generate lots of offense while also trying to maintain their spot on a roster that is gearing up for a long playoff run. With the team sitting first in the Eastern Conference (one point up on the New York Islanders with two games at hand), the Montreal Canadiens would need only need to put on the game face they wore on Tuesday night in order to hold victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets for a third and final time and with a natural right-winger joining the clan, victory looked to be in the palm of their hands.

The Canadiens opened up the first period with an extreme amount of pressure in the Columbus zone. There was great play coming from both the top and third line, especially with Devante Smith-Pelly getting a good shot off, but it was during the fourth line shift that P.K. Subban put a top corner shot past Curtis Mcelhinney (assisted by Andrei Markov and Manny Malhotra) only one minute and 49 seconds into the game. However, the Blue Jackets responded with a quick shot past Carey Price via Brandon Dubinsky (assisted by David Savard and Cam Atkinson) only a minute after. It was now a one to one tie less than three minutes in, but Andrei Markov’s rocket shot (assisted by David Desharnias) gave the Canadiens the lead again, putting two points on the board at four minutes and 25 seconds. Hitting the midway mark, the shots were in favour of the Canadiens but both teams were already generating excellent offense early in the game. The Blue Jackets were trying to kill off any chance the Habs got to keep the pucks deep in the Columbus zone while the Canadiens successfully killed off the Columbus power play and with five minutes and 24 seconds, Mad Max Pacioretty scored his 30th goal of the season (assisted by Brendan Gallagher and P.K. Subban), extending their lead by two points. The Canadiens used the rest of the few minutes they had left to keep the pressure on while the Blue Jackets scrambled and attempted to be just one point away from a tie. However, the Canadiens kept their three to one lead until the clock ran out.

The Blue Jackets started off the second period on the power play but the Canadiens were once again able to successfully kill it off and keep the pucks in the Columbus zone. While the Blue Jackets were still scrambling to get another point on the board and had a great opportunity from Jack Johnson to put the puck behind the net, Carey Price’s great hand eye coordination and concentration generated an incredible save that kept the Canadiens two points ahead at the midway mark. While there were great opportunities for both sides of the ice, the second period remained three to one with the Canadiens still in the lead.

Getting sloppy in their own zone, the Canadiens were struggling to keep the Blue Jackets away from the net and keep the pucks deep. However, Jacob De La Rose got his first NHL goal while giving the Habs their fourth goal of the night (assisted by Brandon Prust and P.K. Subban) only five minutes and 33 seconds into the third period. After a long awaited response to the Habs’ three points, Marko Dano (assisted by Artem Anisimov and David Savard) gave the Blue Jackets their second goal of the night, setting the game at four to two near the midway mark. The Blue Jackets were racing to at least be one point away from a tie but the Canadiens were keeping the pressure and aggression on, keeping the Columbus Blue Jackets at bay and giving the Montreal Canadiens the perfect opportunity to score their fifth goal of the night on an empty net via Jacob De La Rose with 16.8 seconds left, ending the game five to two.

Here are my thoughts on tonight’s game.

  • The Montreal Canadiens played one of the best games of the 2014-15 season tonight. The defense and offense were absolutely incredible, especially with the Habs finally generating more offense and giving themselves more opportunities to put pucks on net. Devante Smith-Pelly definitely gave the bottom line guys more chances to snag goals and in just one game he has shown why the Canadiens need tough guys like Smith-Pelly, Markov, Pacioretty, and so on. Overall, it was a great outcome for the Habs and I have no doubt that Saturday’s game against the Leafs with be full of madness and success on the ice.

The Montreal Canadiens play the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre on Saturday at 7:00pm.

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

Follow Jessica-Lyn on Twitter: @strucxtures.