Location: New York
Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Nabokov (L)
Habs goalscorers: Pacioretty (3), Gomez!!!
Opposition goalscorers: Moulson, Streit
Could it be anything but? The time finally came for Scott Gomez to shoot at an open net from a good position. He was instrumental in keeping the PP play alive and had just set up a few brilliant chances earlier, so when the puck flew right to his waiting stick he deserved the time afforded him to snap his first goal in 12 months and a bit home. Might I say, the goal is also a good example of some PP luck going right, as he scored from Cammalleri's spot, something we know Mike couldn't do for an 11% PP.
Max Pacioretty - Game Puck
A hat trick from two absolutely fantastic shots beating a good goalie who was ready (ish). These were goalscorers goals, so it's no surprise that Max then is poised to become the first 30-goal man in a little while for the Habs. Apart from the goals he was a threat all night on breaks as he emulated Erik Cole's outside speed and poise. He ended with a ton of shots and attempts (10 and 16, respectively) to show for the fits he gave Islanders defenders.
The very least one can do after calling someone dead wood is admit a good performance when he sees it. Darche has turned his game around of late with some more ice time and is suddenly a noticeably positive force for the good guys. I suspect that this is a good strategy against the Jets and Islanders, but will reserve judgment on its use in Boston games. Nevertheless, he played some good two way hockey while surging for a few chances. Moreover, this pairing with Plekanec has woken the very important player within the turtleneck, a very valuable thing indeed.
Cole was at ease against the Islanders as he played the sidekick to superhero this time out. Of course, he played that role by doing exactly what he does at his best, creating good chances from almost nothing. It was good to see he and Max find so many openings.
The Islanders aren't a strong team full of depth, but as Pierre Houde rightly noted, Tavares is becoming a major handful. A testament to Gorges then that he battled with John for most of the night and came out a winner in the end analysis. I fancied Gorges chances to score that goal on another goalie, as well -- I thought the Nabokov save on him was a great glove grab.
Whenever we complain about the Canadiens, there's usually some gripe that they are not very hard to play against (at least to the observer). But to a season's worth of evidence, Emelin offers them a defender to move towards the solution. He looks hard to play against, and the proof is in a lot of puck recovery and broken attacks. I liked him especially tonight as I noticed he was as determined as anyone. It seems like the rookie is finding his KHL form more and more every new game.
This game was a good example of how timing of goals matters. 57 minutes of shutout hockey gives a team a lot of time to build a lead against a team that also has to think attack. Carey was brilliant in allowing the breathing room for his teammates to go three up, and also to hold that as long as he did. The blemish on the record is only personal (lost a shutout he probably deserved most times). He deserves massive credit for backstopping a very important win here.
The Habs wrote some answers to future trivia questions tonight. Pacioretty scored his first career hat trick and scored possibly the latest third period goal in Canadiens history. I'm not sure if anyone has ever taken 16 attempts on net in the time it's been recorded either. Gomez, of course, broke his year-long duck. Cunneyworth went on his first three game winning streak. A few of these achievements represent some pretty big monkeys being left to stay in Long Island.
Back monkeys off-loaded, it's still hard to see where the team will go from here.
From all signs they look like players who want to make the playoffs today and who will continue to push a bit harder to get there. But we know that even the best efforts could end in tears because of the record compiled over 52 games, and the GM may not share his players' optimism. What we do know is that no one wants the Maple Leafs in the playoffs, not players, not GM, not many people other than Maple Leafs fans themselves, and so the next game will be approached for glory. A win there and things start to get in that deceptively believable realm again.