Montreal won back-to-back games for the first time in over month, defeating the New York Islanders 5-3. With the victory, the Habs prolonged their point streak to six games and find themselves tied for a playoff position, at least for now.
While both teams failed to convert on early power plays in the first frame, scoring picked up quickly afterwards. The Islanders opened the hostilities as P.A Parenteau intercepted an errant pass by P.K Subban and fed the puck to an unmarked Matt Moulson. Moulson then coolly slipped the puck past Carey Price for his 15th goal of the campaign.
Fortunately for the Canadiens, Andrei Kostitsyn evened the score mere minutes later. Chipping the puck down the right wing boards, the Belarussian aptly recovered the puck and fired a quick shot past Al Montoya’s blocker.
Mathieu Darche, with a slap shot from just above the circle, allowed his team to head to the intermission with a 2-1 advantage. Montoya looked shaky on the play, again getting beaten on his blocker side.
Much like in the initial frame, both teams were afforded opportunities with the man advantage in the second period – two for Montreal and one for the New York – but failed to capitalize. The Habs certainly had their chances, though, peppering the Islander’s net with 15 shots.
Al Montoya, who looked wobbly earlier, picked up his play considerably and ultimately allowed his team to escape the frame with a one goal deficit. He stopped all of Montreal’s shots, including ten on the power play. His best save came against Lars Eller, who made a nifty move to undress the Islanders’ defence on his way to the front of the net.
The final period started with the remnants of a late powerplay for Montreal. The seconds remaining were enough for the Canadiens to add to their lead. David Desharnais and P.K Subban exchanged passes before feeding Erik Cole, who completed a gorgeous three-way passing play.
However, the two-goal advantage proved to be short lived
Just over five minutes into the final frame, Josh Bailey converted on a two-on-one down low and put his team within a goal. Then, near the middle of the period, a mad scrum in the crease led to John Tavares’ tying tally.
After letting a three goal lead slip against the Canucks last week, it looked like the Canadiens were about to let another win fall through their hands on home ice.
Then, a most unlikely hero emerged. Peteri Nokelainen, sneaking off the bench during a change, streaked into the zone and unleashed a powerful one-timer from the right point.
This time though, the Habs would not abandon the lead.
Hal Gill put away the contest with an empty net tally. The hulking blueliner lobbed the puck from his zone into the gaping cage at the other end. Carey Price made 29 saves in the victorious effort while his counterpart, Al Montoya, stopped 24 shots.
HW 3 Stars
First Star: Erik Cole Erik Cole continues to be a sparkplug for the Canadiens. His line was the Habs’ most consistent scoring threat and the forward crashed the net with intensity all night, even after colliding harshly with the post in the third period. He also neatly finished a beautiful passing play between Desharnais and Subban in the third period.
Statline: 1 G, 0 A, Even, 6 Shots, 6 Hits, 18:49 TOI
Second Star: Hal Gill Hard to ignore Gill’s solid performance. He was a force defensively, but also made some sound plays in the offensive play and was able to keep the puck alive in the attacking zone. On top of that, he was rewarded with the empty net tally late in the game.
Staline: 1 G, 0 A, +2, 1 shot, 5 blocked shots, 2 hits, 19:23 TOI
Third Star: David Desharnais Desharnais provided a gorgeous pass on Cole’s tally and also assisted on the empty net marker. Even more importantly, he showed tremendous hustle throughout the evening and created chances in front of the net. It is cliché, no doubt, but he does not play his size.
Statline: 0 G, 2 A, Even, 1 shot, 18:24 TOI
Notes:Travis Moen left the game with an undisclosed injury. Chris Campoli played in his second game of the season after suffering a leg injury in the season opener. Alexei Emelin was scratched to make room for his return. Tomas Kaberle picked up an assist, giving him points in his first two games with Montreal.