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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Habs Hang Around Long Enough to Pull Out Win in NYC

The Canadiens have had a tough time on the road lately. But they're slowly starting to find their game, proof with a tight 2-1 win over the New York Rangers last night at MSG. Sometimes if you hang around long enough, you can pull out a game or two when you don't have your best stuff. Last night was one of those games for Montreal.

This one certainly won't be going into the books as a classic. The Habs started slow and the Rangers took a 1-0 lead when Brandon Dubinsky took advantage of Hal Gill's slow feet to speed around him and put the puck past Alex Auld, who was getting the start against his most recent former teammates.

Martin wants to try to play Auld a bit more in the second half to try to keep Price at ideal freshness, and with performances like the one he gave last night, there's no reason why the coach has any reason to change course. Auld remains undefeated against the Rangers in his career (4-0-2).

Auld made some very solid saves and essentially kept the Canadiens in this one until they found their legs midway through the 2nd period.

Not that the Rangers were dominant. For awhile it looked like neither team was motivated for last night's tilt. Maybe it was the impending doom of another big storm looming on the east coast.

Chris Drury drilled a slapshot off the post on a 2-on-1 midway through the 2nd which seemed to wake up the Canadiens. With just over a minute remaining in the period, the Habs kept the puck in the Rangers' zone on several occasions and maintained good offensive zone coverage when finally Tomas Plekanec got the puck to Spacek, who slipped around a sprawling Ranger to wrist a weak one towards the net. It seemed to glance off of Darche's skate and in between Lundqvist's pads. But it was the action of Benoit Pouliot charging the net that caused the Rangers goalie to slide his left leg back into the net (in a defensive posture) which ultimately put the puck into the side of the net.

Martin juggled his lines a bit playing Plekanec with Darche and Pouliot and it seemed to work. They began generating good chances in the 3rd.

Benny Pouliot was all over the ice last night, and he was rewarded for his hard work just over 6 minutes into the 3rd period when he streaked down the left side and from a sharp angle he roofed a shot over the right shoulder of Lundqvist -- one the All-Star Swedish goalie knows he should have had.
Pouliot to his skill released the puck very quickly and caught Lundqvist by surprise. The guy has a great shot and really thread the needle on that one. If Pouliot keeps up this kind of effort game in game out, he will be rewarded by Martin with additional ice time. Let's see.

Lundqvist actually made quite a few good saves once the Habs got going, notably a terrific blocker save off of poor Hal Gill who is still looking for his 1st goal of the season.
All in all, the Habs got a late period goal for a change instead of giving one up, and got secondary scoring. Add Auld's key saves early, and it all resulted in a chippy, dirty road victory Jacques Martin and the Canadiens will happily take.

Benoit Pouliot celebrates his game-winning 3rd period goal last night against the Rangers in New York. Photo Jim McIsaac/Getty images.
The Canadiens have now won 3 games in a row and collected 9 of a possible 10 points. The win also snapped the Rangers 3 game winning streak. Unfortunately they didn't gain on either the 'Canes and Bruins, who were both winners last night.
However, the team is now in 7th place, tied with the Atlanta Thrashers with 51 points, but have two games in hand; and are 2 points the Rangers who sit in the 6th spot.
Other game notes: Before the game the NHL All-Star selections were announced and Carey Price made the grade. Kudos to Carey, this one is truly deserved. Although he's not at the top of the goalie pile, his numbers are very, very good, and he leads the league in games played and minutes played. Considering his annus horibilis last year, he has successfully rebounded and put it all in the rear view mirror. Hopefully he doesn't let this one go to his head.
Ryan McDonagh, the Habs' former first rounder from 2007, played and in general was solid. McDonagh was part of the Gomez deal last year. Another reminder why I don't like the Canadiens' head of scouting, Trevor Timmins.
New Rangers addition Wojtek Wolski had a bunch of scoring opportunities last night, the best with 3 minutes to go when he fired a shot from the bottom of the faceoff circle that Auld got his blocker on. The puck redirected off the post, off Auld's backside and slid out along the crease while Spacek cleared the puck.
What comes around, goes around: Wow! The Bruins were in Pittsburgh Monday night, and exorcised their demons from their previous meltdown against the Habs by scoring 4 goals with less than 5 minutes to go in the 3rd to make up a 2-0 deficit. Bad for the Habs because the Bruins moved 2 points ahead with a game in hand; and the Pens will be looking to avenge their loss with a strong effort tonight against the Habs at the Bell Centre.

1 comment:

  1. I won't be calling Benoit Pouliot "Poulet Pouliot" anymore. The man is on his game!