Brian Gionta scored two goals, giving him a team leading 29 tallies for the season, and Carey Price rebounded from allowing a poor first goal to make 27 saves in a 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the win, Montreal is assured a sixth-place finish in the East and a date with the Boston Bruins in the first round.
Barely three minutes into the contest, Ryan White opened the scoring, beating James Reimer with a weak wrist shot from the left faceoff circle. Shortly afterwards, the same White was once again at the centre of the action, dropping the gloves with Mike Brown after laying out Carl Gunnarson with a clean check. This fight led to an instigating penalty for the Leafs and afforded the Habs their first man-advantage of the game. Brian Gionta wasted no time making the opposition pay, accepting a wonderful pass from Scott Gomez and one-timing the puck into the net. At 13:13, though, Phil Kessel managed to halve Montreal’s lead, steaming down the right wing and beating Carey Price with a rather pedestrian 5-hole shot.
In spite of allowing weak goals in the opening frame, both goalkeepers put on excellent performances in the middle period. Most notably, Carey Price stoned Joffrey Lupul on a clear breakaway and Reimer snuffed out two point blank chances for Mike Cammalleri. However, with less than 4 minutes remaining in the period, Brian Gionta once again capitalized on a powerplay, putting a Yannick Weber rebound past the sprawling netminder and restoring his team’s two goal advantage.
The final period saw the Canadiens obtain many glorious scoring chances, with Cammalleri and Gionta once again at the forefront. But, for a moment, it appeared that the Leafs had potted the first goal of the frame. After the puck took an odd bounce, it deflected behind Price and appeared to be heading across the goal line, only to have the goalie’s glove hand intervene at the last second. After a lengthy review, it was determined that the puck never fully crossed the line. About two minutes later, Price made another spectacular play, diving across to deny a Phil Kessel one-timer. Tomas Plekanec wrapped up the scoring, profiting from a Dion Phaneuf mistake to get a clear breakaway and to pot a shorthanded tally. In the end, James Reimer finished the game with 30 saves in a losing effort.
HW 3 Stars
1. Brian Gionta:The captain did not only lead his team on the scoresheet, but set the tone in terms of effort. Not only was he a force offensively, driving to the net with regularity and obtaining many clear scoring chances, but he also made some excellent defensive plays, namely during his 4:03 of work on the penalty kill.
Statline: 2 G, 0 A, 4 shots, 1 blocked shot, 3 hits, 19:27 TOI
2. Carey Price: This game reflected the netminder’s
evolution in a nutshell. After allowing a bad goal in the first period, Price reaffirmed himself quickly and made many spectacular saves throughout the game, especially in the third period. While last year he may have been deflated by conceding such a poor goal, tonight’s game demonstrated his new found maturity.
Statline: 27 saves on 28 shots
3. Mike Cammalleri: While he did not find the back of the net, it is reassuring to see this kind of game from Cammalleri heading into the playoffs. If he continues to obtain the same kind of chances, it will only be a matter of time before a tickles the twine come the post-season.
Statline : 0 G, 0 A, 4 shots, 3 missed shots, 19:51 TOI
HM: Jacques Martin: Feel what you may about JM, but the fact remains that the coach helped steer an eight place squad to the conference finals last year and has now managed to guide an injury riddled lineup to a very respectable sixth-place finish. Along with the fact that tonight’s win represented his 600th career win, it certainly seems like Martin deserves some props.
Louis Moustakas can be reached for comments, questions, cross-checks and, of course, fan-mail at [email protected]