The Habs were looking to go into the holiday break on a winning note and did so with a 3-2 win over Carolina, picking up their first points on a season-long 7 game road trip in the process.
The game started with an uneventful first period in which both teams skated hard but cohesion, puck support and finish were missing. Yannick Weber was called for elbowing on a questionable call at 8:25 of the first. The Habs did have a slight edge over Carolina, being first on pucks, winning most of the battles in the corner, having more scoring chances than the Hurricanes, but simply couldn’t put one behind Cam Ward.
An ugly shorthanded goal by Carolina started the middle frame of the game. It’s hard to say who looked worse on it, Hamrlik or Weber. Chad LaRose picked up a loose puck which Hamrlik had failed to recover, and Weber failed to block the shot as LaRose shot one past Carey Price at 1:02 of the period. Birthday Boy Scott Gomez evened the score for the Habs three minutes later, splitting the D beautifully. Erik Cole scored only his 7th of the season on his own rebound when Hamrlik and the rest of the Canadiens failed to clear the puck after Price made the initial save. Nine seconds later, Cole was penalized for hitting Jaroslav Spacek from behind. The 5 minute major turned into a goal-mine for the Habs as Andrei Kostitsyn tipped one in off a Tomas Plekanec pass. With a minute and a half left in the major penalty, Alexandre Picard absolutely whistled one past Ward with a lot of traffic in front of the net.
Determined to win one in this so-far fruitless road trip, the Canadiens hustled to keep the score at 3-2. They played really well for the first half of the period. At around the ten-minute mark, they started playing kitty-bar-the-door and it almost backfired with Cole and Staal having sterling chances. Price was a wall in the third, stopping impossible-looking shots and doing his best to keep the team up by one. The forwards helped out by being defensively conscious, back-checking and fore-checking aggressively. The Canes had a flurry of chances in the last few minutes but the Habs held on and managed to pull out a win in their last game before Christmas break.
HW 3 Stars of the Night
First Star – Scott Gomez: With a goal and an assist in the game, Gomez worked and hustled all night long. He was flying all night.
Second Star – Andrei Kostitsyn:His excellent positioning in front of the net on the five-minute PP led to the goal which led to the Habs victory. When he plays well, he produces, and it’s good to have him back in the lineup.
Third Star – Carey Price:Certainly Price cannot be held at fault for the two Carolina goals, and he can certainly be lauded for the excellent saves he made in the first and third periods.
Tomas Plekanec: He played an excellent game, and was a big part of the win.
Lars Eller Often the most dangerous Canadien on the ice, Eller is improving with every shift he takes. He seemed to have an extra spark tonight.
Notes: Yannick Weber In his first game back after sitting in the press box for what seemed like too long, Weber had a solid, even excellent first period, a so-so second period and a good third period. He played 19:40 and did not look out of place on the PP.
Benoit Pouliot and P.K. Subban, both healthy scratches for this one, were not missed. Though I hardly think Pouliot was the worst Canadien during the losing streak, having Kostitsyn in for him seemed to pay off. P.K.’s high-risk, almost wild and uncontrollable style of play was costing him and his team. Weber’s steady, quiet play was a relief or a balm for the Canadiens, who finally put up a victory on the road.