Montreal - December 1, 2014 - The Habs arrived in Denver needing to end a losing streak while getting a difficult road trip off to a good start. They also needed to score some goals and click on the power play.
True, it was far from perfect. As banged up as Colorado is right now and as much trouble as they have in their own end, a sharper Montreal team might have driven rookie goalie Calvin Pickard from the net - a lot sooner than with 2:42 to play.
But it takes some of the heat off. At least until Minnesota. And it sure was fun to watch. Just downright giddy if you were a native Montrealer seeing a live NHL game for the first time in a couple of years.
P.K. Subban. Picked up where he left off against Buffalo. Played nearly half the game. Tied the game for the Habs with a blast from inside the blue line. Just his third two point game of the season. We've come to expect a lot, haven't we? Appears to be getting on a roll.
Max Pacioretty. There would be none of that passing b.s. with Pacioretty leading a two on one. His 12th goal of the season (second game winner) moved him into a tie with Alex Ovechkin for 6th in the NHL. Who has more? Tyler Seguin, Rick Nash, Steven Stamkos, Vladimir Tarasanko and Corey Perry.
Lars Eller. Tremendous game, even as Daniel Briere stick handled through him to tie the game late in the first period. Eller finally got some meaningful power play time (0:59). Led all players with six shots on goal, giving him a total of 13 shots the last two games. Also had another good night in the face off circle (63%). What I liked most was his refusal to back down physically when he was wrapped up with Jarome Iginla deep in Montreal territory with time running out. I think I might have even detected a head butt by Eller as Iginla refused to let go until they were separated by referee Wes McCauley.
Andrei Markov. Big bounce back night. With Habs offense stalled it was important for the blue line contribute and between Markov and Subban (combined 2 goals 4 points) they did.
Alex Galchenyuk. Still looking for that elusive goal (he did hit the goalpost in the second period but saw his goalless drought stretch to 10 games) but that was a beautifully skilled saucer pass he made to Markov to tie the game early in the second period.
Power Play. For the first time since they practiced the four forward approach - with Eller on the ice - Michel Therrien actually used the foursome (plus Subban) to start their first power play. Naturally it was the second unit that scored. The goal pushed their power play rate over 14%. Baby steps.
Jiri Sekac. Opened the scoring, serving notice that perhaps a jolt of offense can come from within. His first goal since he helped beat the Bruins on November 13th.
4th line of Manny Malhotra - Dale Weise - Eric Tangradi. They looked good. Enjoyed some offensive zone time and threatened to score. Well, Tangradi and Weise did anyway. Weise was again spotted on other lines by Michel Therrien and ended up playing a season high 15:51. Tangradi and Weise might want to practice shooting at an open net. Both missed chances to clinch the game (Weise hit the post from in close) after Patrick Roy pulled Pickard with just under 3:00 to play. Malhotra wore out a path from the face off circle to the Habs bench as he took 27 draws, winning 15 of them (56%).
Carey Price. Yes he allowed three goals but he was very strong early before Briere beat him short side late in the first period. And when Colorado added two more in the second it looked like he might be in for a long night. But he was perfect in the third, including late game savers on Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly. In the first period Price made an acrobatic save off Briere which actually earned him an assist on the game's first goal by Sekac after Brandon Prust corralled the rebound.
Mike Weaver. Lost a puck battle along the boards late in the first period which led to Briere tying the game with just 34 seconds to play in the period. A total momentum zapper. Weaver found himself on the bench for most of the second period. He was out - as usual - during a penalty kill after Eller had taken a bad offensive zone tripping penalty. But that was pretty much it. Weaver was kept to a season low 7:49. Tom Gilbert - back in the line up after being scratched for both games against Buffalo - played 11:04. Bryan Allen watched this one from the press box. If there is supposed to be healthy competition among veteran defensemen why are they struggling?
Colorado's third goal by Tyson Barrie. It came after a 4 on 1 break following a poor decision to pinch at the Colorado line by - you guessed it - Weaver.
P.A. Parenteau. He wasn't bad but it was an uneventful return to Denver. Briere has caught him in goals with six.
David Desharnais. Not shooting the puck is one thing. After firing away at Jhonas Enroth on Saturday (4 shots) Desharnais was back to sputtering when he had the puck, taking himself and his team out of strong scoring chances. But beyond that what was the deal with Desharnais falling down once every period - with nobody around him?