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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 44 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
On Thursday night, the Habs had an opportunity to get within a single point of the division lead but sloppy defensive play in the second proved costly as Montreal fell to the Islanders 4-3. Unfortunately, there was no help from the infirmary for the depleted Canadiens back end, meaning the same inexperienced crew from the Carolina game suited up.
The first period was relatively tame with the best scoring chances coming off of defensive zone mishaps. There was an injury suffered in that stanza as New York starter Evgeni Nabokov left early on, suffering what looked to be a lower body injury. Rick DiPietro came in to replace him while neither team was able to tickle the twine before the buzzer sounded.
The second period was a different story. P-A Parenteau scored off a turnover by Montreal starter Peter Budaj behind the net that seemed to suck the life out of the Habs. Before the midway point, the Islanders had two more on goals by Jay Pandolfo and former Hab Mark Streit. After the third goal, coach Jacques Martin flipped the lines around which seemed to spark the offence. Max Pacioretty scored his team leading 9th of the season and Erik Cole potted home his 5th past a sprawling DiPietro to cut the deficit to one. Unfortunately, New York restored the two goal lead quickly as Matt Moulson benefited from a re-direct off a Montreal defenceman to make it 4-2 heading into the 3rd.
In that final stanza, the Habs came out looking like a team playing the second half of a back-to-back that was missing numerous key players; they were mostly flat. They did have their chances though on a pair of late powerplays. On the latter of the two, Brian Gionta batted a Mike Cammalleri pass down and then in to give the Canadiens some late life. They had some chances but in the end were unable to send the game to overtime.
Budaj took the loss, his second in three starts, turning aside 29 of 33 shots. DiPietro picked up the win in relief, making 24 saves while Nabokov stopped both shots he faced in the no-decision. For the second straight game, the Habs scored a powerplay goal, going 1/4 with the man advantage. The Islanders didn't score in their three chances.
HW 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star: Brian Gionta (1 goal, even rating, 3 shots, 2 hits, 18:23 TOI)
Gionta's knack for scoring timely goals came in handy in this one as it was his late goal that gave the Habs a chance they didn't really deserve based on most of their 3rd period play. He's slowly beginning to come out of his early season slump.
2nd Star: Tomas Plekanec (2 assists, +1 rating, 5 shots, 12/21 faceoffs, 21:33 TOI)
It was another one of 'those games' for the Czech centre. He wasn't all that noticeable but by the end of the game, he had helpers on Montreal's last two goals, was productive in the faceoff dot, and was one of only 3 Habs on the happy side of the plus/minus stat.
3rd Star: Max Pacioretty (1 goal, -1 rating, 4 shots, 18:09 TOI)
It's not often we see a power forward blossom before our very eyes but we're seeing it here. His goal in this one woke up a team that was largely sleep walking up until that point.
Honourable Mention: Erik Cole (1 goal, even rating, 2 shots, 16:24 TOI)
There's something to be said about being in the right place at the right time. Yes, players can get some easy goals from it as Cole did but he deserves credit for getting to that spot at the right time as well. That was something I noticed a few times throughout the game even if most of the chances failed to get to the net.
Stat of the Night: This back-to-back set of games was a curious one for Hab C Scott Gomez. On Wednesday, he was 2/10 on the draw while in this contest, he was a much better (and opposite) 8/10.
- NHL Statsheet