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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.
For the second time this year, the Habs were looking to win back-to-back games. Also for the second time, the team standing in their way of doing so was the Ottawa Senators. However, the result was not the same this time around as a pair of early goals were enough for Montreal to beat the Sens 2-1 on Sunday afternoon.
With both teams being in the top-3 in the league for fewest goals allowed (Ottawa was tied for first, while the Canadiens came in third), I don't think many were expecting to see an offensive explosion in the opening period. Surprisingly, that is what happened though. Jakob Silfverberg opened the scoring just 98 seconds into the game on a powerplay as a perfect stretch pass from Patrick Wiercioch sprung him for a breakaway; the Habs failed to pick him up off the line change and got burned.
Montreal didn't waste any time getting that one back as on the very next shift, David Desharnais re-directed a Max Pacioretty shot past Craig Anderson. Pacioretty, who a week ago Sunday was being released from hospital, made his return to the lineup for this game (replacing Tomas Kaberle) despite being expected to miss a minimum of three weeks. Erik Cole picked up his second of the year later in the period at the tail end of a powerplay, backhanding one top shelf past Anderspn (despite having half the net wide open) to give Montreal their first and only lead of the game.
Although there was no scoring in the second, there were no shortage of scoring chances. The Habs had a late 4-on-3 powerplay opportunity but were unable to capitalize, setting the stage for a nail-biting third period. Early on, former Hab prospect Andre Benoit had what would have been his first career NHL goal waved off on what was a rather generous goaltender interference call. (That said, Ottawa's goal came on what was somewhat of an iffy goalie interference call as well; the officiating in general was rather creative.) That seemed to galvanize the Sens as they controlled the latter stages of the game but were unable to get the equalizer.
Price made 32 saves in the win while Anderson was the hard luck loser allowing just the two goals on 32 Montreal shots. The Senators' goalie was, however, able to continue his season long streak of not allowing any goals in the second or third periods. For the first time this season, the Habs were unable to score with the man advantage going 0/5 while Ottawa was 1/3.
HW 3 Stars of the Afternoon
1st Star: Carey Price - For most of Montreal's wins, the offence has been productive and Price hasn't had to steal any games. I don't think it's fair to say he 'stole' this one but the Habs needed him to be near perfect against Ottawa and aside from the early goal allowed, he was at the top of his game all afternoon long.
Stats: 1 goal allowed on 33 shots, 1.00 GAA, .969 SV%, 2 giveaways
2nd Star: Erik Cole - Early on this year there have been suggestions that Cole is washed up. Beyond the obvious fact that it would be hard to conclude that in seven games, his effort in this game should silence the critics. He was aggressive, drove the net, and was physical which is exactly what the Habs need from him.
Stats: 1 goal, +2 rating, 3 shots, 6 hits (game high), 16:22 TOI
3rd Star: David Desharnais - Confidence can really do wonders for a player. Going into Saturday's game he had next to none but now, he has been buzzing around the puck for two straight games at a similar level as last season. I don't know if it's the new system that just took some time adapting to but he seems to be doing more than he is thinking out there recently and it's paying off.
Stats: 1 goal, +2 rating, 2 shots, 2 blocks, 10/19 faceoffs (53%), 18:26 TOI
Honourable Mention: Francis Bouillon - There aren't any stats to quantify this selection but I found myself remarking quite a few times that he was in the right spot at the right time. He even looked better on the powerplay than usual (perhaps because his shots were more on target than others). It wasn't a flashy game but he was effective and I think it deserved a mention.
Stats: 1 assist, +1 rating, 2 PIMS, 2 shots, 2 giveaways, 16:00 TOI
Stats of the Afternoon: Travis Moen was the lone forward to not record at least a shot on goal. It's not often that I'll mention a player from the opponent here but Erik Karlsson attempted a whopping 20 shots (12 of which missed the net while another was blocked). Number of shots blocked by Ottawa defencemen? 5. Number blocked by Josh Gorges? 7.
- NHL Statsheet