For the second straight game, the Montreal Canadiens took the lead when it mattered most. Alex Galchenyuk capped off a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche in overtime Thursday night.
The Avs had just killed off a 5-on-3 when defenseman Nick Holden stepped back onto the ice as Galchenyuk slipped the game winner through Reto Berra’s five-hole. Christian Thomas and P.K. Subban picked up assists on the goal.
While neither Daniel Briere nor Jerome Iginla suited up for Colorado, Habs fans were attending the game were fortunate to see sophomore Nathan MacKinnon live in action.
The reigning Calder Memorial Trophy holder notched two assists and frustrated the likes of Alexei Emelin and David Desharnais throughout the evening. His pass to defenseman Tyson Barrie (fantasy hockey buffs be sure to keep an eye on this guy) lead to the opening goal on Carey Price 13 minutes into the first period.
Max Pacioretty tied the game on a Habs powerplay with assists from Nathan Beaulieu and Subban. The lead lasted a mere two minutes before the Avs Captain Gabriel Landeskog put his team back ahead.
With Maxime Talbot serving a hooking minor, Subban fired one from the point that stretched the twine and knotted the game back up at two apiece, setting up a scoreless third period followed by overtime (&&& the best part of preseason overtime is that no loser points are awarded).
So without further adieu…
HabsWorld 3 Stars
First Star: P.K. Subban
There are few players in the NHL capable of carrying a puck like Subban. The difference this year is evident: PK has bought into Therrien’s system. Rather than trying to do all of the work himself, Subban gained the zone with ease, maintained possession while his teammates got into position, and then distributed the puck safely rather than attempting to complete the play alone. The confidence in the $9 million dollar man’s game is apparent and fans should have nothing to worry about this year. The Habs defender logged an astounding 29:43 in ice time tonight. Astounding because it’s only the second game of preseason and there are plenty of kids that could use the extra minutes. To be fair, 9:37 of these minutes came with the man advantage. But it still needs to be recognized, for it may be a trend that carries over into the regular season. P.K. was on the ice for all five goals tonight, which left him with an impressive three points but a minus-2 rating. Many will be quick to tell you that Emelin may not be the ideal defense partner for Mr. Subban. They might be right.
Second Star: Max Pacioretty
Can Max Pacioretty score 50 goals this year? Maybe. He could have had three tonight. His line with David Desharnais and P-A Parenteau could very well carry the load offensively this year. If Max can remain healthy, there’s no telling just how many goals he can put up this year. He missed a great opportunity to tie the game after Subban sprung him on a breakaway with a pretty stretch pass that split the defenseman. He failed to convert and you have to wonder if he could use some practice on his shootout moves.
Third Star: Christian Thomas
Time is running out for Thomas to earn an NHL roster spot with the Canadiens. It may already be too late for him to start with the Habs this year, but he’ll be among the first considered for a call up if Montreal runs into injury trouble. Thomas was buzzing throughout the first period before fading in the second. Therrien limited his minutes to 13:42 overall, but the kid was on the ice to set up Alex Galchenyuk for the game winner in overtime. Not bad.
Honorable Mention: Peter Budaj
Say what you will about the Budaj-Tokarski conundrum, but Budaj is here to stay. We’re only two games into the preseason but I can’t see Marc Bergevin moving “Ned” by the end of camp. He’s the perfect backup for Carey Price in short term situations. He stepped into the match down 2-1 but made 17 saves, some of them prettier than others, to help the Canadiens claw back for the win. If I had to make a fearless prediction, I’d say Tokarski will be moved sooner rather than later or management will gamble that he won’t be picked up on waivers when assigned to the AHL in October. Time will tell.