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After a rough outing in New York on Friday, the Habs responded with one of
their most dominating performances of the season, crushing Minnesota 8-1. 
This pulls Montreal within 1 point of division leading Boston, though the Bruins
do have a pair of games in hand.  Hat tricks of sorts were the theme of
this game, as you’ll read with the 3-Stars.

Ryan White kicked off the scoring early, scoring his first NHL goal just 31
seconds into the game.  6 minutes later, while White was in the penalty
box, Andrei Kostitsyn took a shift in his position and scored to double the
Habs’ lead heading into the 2nd.  For the second straight frame, a first
minute goal was scored as P.K. Subban banked one home.  That opened up the
proverbial floodgates as James Wisniewski, Travis Moen, and Subban again all
scored before the period ended, giving Montreal a touchdown lead (without the
convert) leading into the 3rd period.

Although it wasn’t in the first minute, Subban scored before the 90 second
mark of the frame, just after a powerplay expired to tally the first hat trick
of his NHL career.  Mikko Koivu spoiled Alex Auld’s shutout bid on a
penalty shot after Alexandre Picard covered up the puck in the crease, credited
as a powerplay goal although the Habs were still forced to kill off the rest of
the penalty anyway.  Before the night was out, Tom Pyatt picked up his
first goal since December 2nd, giving the Canadiens an 8-1 victory.

Former Hab Jose Theodore got the start for the Wild but like the last time he
faced Montreal (while with Washington), he didn’t make it to the halfway point
of the game, allowing 5 goals on 19 shots in just over 27 minutes of work. 
Niklas Backstrom took over in relief and didn’t do that much better, turning
aside 10 of 13 shots.  At the other end, Auld turned in his 2nd straight
strong performance, making 30 saves.  The Habs were 1/5 on the powerplay
while Minnesota was 1/3.

HW 3 Stars of the Night:

1st Star: P.K. Subban (3 goals, 1 assist, +3 rating, 4 shots,
23:30 TOI)

This was his type of game, one where he could freelance a bit and boy did it
work in his favour.  His first goal was after a lengthy skate around
Minnesota’s zone while the other two were what we’re used to seeing from him,
bullet shots from the point.  This should be quite the confidence boost for
the player who probably didn’t need one in the first place.  His hat trick
was the more traditional one than the others below.

2nd Star: Ryan White (1 goal, 2 assists, +3 rating, 5 PIMS, 3
shots, 9:17 TOI)

In scoring his first career goal, he was ‘rewarded’ with a team low in ice
time.  You certainly can’t argue with his efficiency as he made all the
right plays in the offensive zone, something we generally don’t see from him. 
It was also nice to see him step up for his teammate (Palushaj) in the 1st
period, part of his ‘Gordie Howe hat trick,’ curiously named as Howe only had
one in his career.

3rd Star: Benoit Pouliot (3 assists, +4 rating, 2 takeways,
12:17 TOI)

I was hoping a return to his old home would get him out of his funk and his
effort in this one should go a long way in accomplishing this.  From the
opening draw, we saw a player who looked determined and his hat trick of assists
was his reward.  He had some issues skating wise, falling repeatedly which
was the only negative in his game, a skate sharpening should fix that up.

Honourable Mention: Alex Auld (30 saves on 31 shots, 1.00 GAA,
.968 SV%)

There were lots of other players who deserve a mention but Auld gets the nod
for making the big saves early on when this was still a game.  There were
some typical rebound woes at times but this was the perfect game for a backup to
play and had it not been for a closed hand in the crease, he would have been

Stats of the Night: To say the Habs didn’t play physical would
be an understatement.  Two Minnesota players (Stoner and Clutterbuck with
5) each had more hits that all of Montreal combined (4).  Nigel Dawes was
the lone Hab to not have a plus rating.  Subban’s hat trick was historical
as he becomes the first Hab rookie defenceman in franchise history to record such a
feat; he also was the first rookie Canadien to do so since Oleg Petrov in 1993.