Habs Goalie: Auld (W)
Opposition Goalie: Vokoun (L)
Habs goalscorers: Halpern, Plekanec, Gionta
Opposition goalscorers: Timmins, Weiss
Max Pacioretty nearly scored on a breakaway just after the Halpern goal. At that instant, the thought that went through my head was: "Oh, Pacioretty's playing tonight". Invisible he wasn't through the rest of the game as the Panthers defence had to open up and allow his insurgences. His work on the gamewinner was top notch and his work in getting a couple of breaks was also very good. Other than that, it was another assist, +2, 6 shots and 8 attempts on net. Good game.
Player of the month for January by a few votes. He must be thankful that the voting 400 picked him this time. It's a pity he can't catch Carey. He's been as good as the goalie all season, but people have just disinvested completely in this 3 star thing, if one looks at the vote totals. This game, Pleks put in another good one. His goal was earned, but was not his best play on the night. That may have been the near breakaway he manufactured through several Panthers while shorthanded. Really, this grind of a game showed what a value Pleks is to the team. He stands out against plain opposition as a dangerous player, who works constantly. To think we all once liked Higgins more.
Andrei may not have played his best game, but I thought he thought the best game of the forwards. There was only one shot in the end, but it was a well generated chance that gave a rebound. Then there were multiple passes. passes that caught the other team off guard because they were creative. A team certainly needs its cheesy bounce ins, but teams also need players like Kostitsyn to keep opposing defenders honest. Tonight, I thought he did that, opening up space for Gomez and Eller.
The play Subban made on the first goal, the cut to the inside of the ice, was a glimpse back to Subban at his precocious rookie best. It's good to see that side of him is still around, despite his new maturity and responsibility. Despite a couple of wacky hits and iffy dives, Subban was also a good bet on D tonight. His willingness to take charge diffused more than a couple of periods of threat. Two months ago we might not have anticipated Subban in the lineup, let alone leading the team in minutes. He's come a long way. He might have a long way further to go.
Last night I insisted on Spacek. Tonight, the "Wild and Crazy Guy" gets the call. Hammer hasn't been doing much that is too special lately. Or has he? He has taken on probably his 5th partner of the season and has made yet another pairing that puts minds at ease. Wisniewski is a good player, but it takes a solid man to help the transition of an outsider into a system (an Islander, no less). Hammer has done that and did it in fine fashion tonight. 4 blocked shots and plenty of edgy play without penalty. A good game from #44.
Alex Auld - Game Puck
There was never any point this evening where I sat up and thought "Wow, what a goalie". yet, thinking to the way the Florida goals went in, this could have easily also have been a 33 shot shutout. His play in the first after the goal went in, and then the shutout second were key to the victory here. Even though we're talking about the Panthers, a team of Higginses, a lesser goalie on this night would have put his team in a tie or a deficit.
Another game, another comeback. It's so odd considering the way the season started, with all wins coming from early leads. It's as if the Canadiens are coming back to vanquish the accusation that they couldn't come back. My feeling is, however, that this can't go on. It's one thing to be caught napping by Florida, quite another with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh or Detroit. This was a nice win, but the team has put in a lot of work to avoid their slow and tentative starts.
In a way, I think the Canadiens were lucky here to get points. In what must surely be the stupidest two days the NHL schedule makers put together, several teams were made to come back from their week off to a one-day road trip with a game at home the following night. It takes a tough team to come back from a one week break to win two comeback games in different cities. They'll appreciate these points in March.