Habs Goalie: Budaj (W)
Opposition Goalie: Lundqvist (L)
Habs goalscorers: Pacioretty (2), Blunden, Desharnais
Opposition goalscorers: Mitchell
Max Pacioretty - Game Puck
A goal in each of the first two periods led the contributions of our top line for this outing. Our leading scorer earlier in the season, Max had a rough December but has hopefully broken his drought and regained some confidence for the months to come. We wanted big things from Pacioretty, and 15 goals in 42 games qualifies. He opened the scoring to put some wind in our sails early, and deflected an Erik Cole point shot for the eventual game-winner in the second. Big goals tonight.
One thing we talked about early this season was the hope that we might finally have 3 lines that have the potential to score. I'd like to think some of that depth was echoed in a bench interview with Tortorella while we were up 3-1, where he said one of the problems was that "Their fourth line has scored twice." I don't know that this is our fourth line (especially considering we only dressed 11 forwards), but whatever line they are, they put 3 pucks in the net and Cole played a central role in all of these.
Rounded out an extremely dangerous-looking line and used his speed and hockey sense to create problems for the Rangers all night long. Desharnais has amassed over 30 points in 45 games now, and is making a strong argument that he can take top-line offensive duties.
I've had the impression that Subban is being allowed to play a little more offensively the last couple games. He seemed more selective with his shots tonight, and had a lot more go on-target as a result. He showed good vision on his pass to Gomez to set up the Blunden goal. Didn't take part in total meltdown that allowed the first goal.
Not an easy night to round out the defenders, especially for defensive play. We weren't challenged too hard in our own end but Gorges was there to take care of it when we were. His physical play in the second and third periods helped to tie up a Rangers squad that knows how to move the puck and put it in the net.
Impressive showing, particularly for a guy who's been on the bench all season. Seriously, this is only Budaj's 6th outing, and only his second in the last 6 weeks or so. Budaj made some good stops early, including a very assertive play well-out of his net early in the second. His kick-save on a shot during the Rangers' power play was one of the prettiest of the game and came at an important moment.
An encouraging game to watch, for sure. Though the line of Cole/Desharnais/Pacioretty stole the show tonight, much of our forward line stood out tonight. Gomez had a really impressive game, and played the neutral ice and transition game as well as I've seen him do this season or last. He won some battles down low and created some great scoring chances, one of which Blunden put home. Blunden was involved in more real chances than I've ever seen before, and I have to wonder if that wasn't because Gomez was keeping him well-fed. Then I saw Gomez "on the back-check" with about 45 seconds left to go in the third: a bad change, and #11 skating out from the offensive zone at walking pace with his hands on his knees as the Rangers put together one of their better chances of the period.
Bourque was also noticeable in his debut beside Plekanec and actually reminds me of Cole if anyone: he has good speed and size, he likes to hit, and he seems to have good offensive senses. People say that maybe this is a new generation of Canadiens that won't be as skilled or as fast as the last couple of seasons, but I defy them to explain to me how the addition of Cole has slowed down our rush or harmed our offense. I think Bourque is of a similar vein, and could have similar success in a power forward role beside Plekanec and Gionta while bringing some size to the trio. Too bad Gionta's out for the rest of the season.
We started strong in the first and scored a beautiful goal only a couple minutes into it. Maybe 6 or 7 minutes later, we started to run into problems winning battles in our end, getting on loose pucks, and clearing it once we did get a stick on it. The Rangers were able to play a possession game in our end of the rink for a fair stretch of the first period, and that's never good. However, we came out strong after the first intermission and never looked back. We seemed to find some real confidence in the dressing room that translated into 3 goals and some pretty serious domination over the Eastern Conference leaders. We won more battles and did the little things right, and they weren't able to contain our rushes or outplay us in the neutral zone. When that happens, we're a tough team to beat and a lot of fun to watch.