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Fresh off their first win in six games, the Canadiens and the rejuvenated Carey Price handled the big and strong Columbus Blue Jackets by a 3-1 score on Monday night. After recording a shutout in his return, it took his own defender taking him out of the play for Price to be beaten on this night. This was a much stiffer test for Price compared to Saturday’s contest, one that he completed with excellence, a game that should serve to quiet the doubters of the Montreal franchise player.

From the opening faceoff, this period belonged to the Canadiens as three of the four lines got an effective forecheck on the Columbus defenders to set the pace to the period. On Brendan Gallagher’s second shift of the night, he outskated Cam Atkinson who had fumbled the puck in the Montreal territory. Gallagher exited the zone with speed and went wide on the defender before beating Sergei Bobrovsky five-hole with 16:49 to go. A few moments later, Phillip Danault would be sent to the sin bin for a questionable holding call on Brandon Dubinsky. The worst ranked power play in the league got a lucky bounce early in the man advantage, but a left-leg stretch from Carey Price kept the Blue Jackets from scoring. It would be the only threatening chance of the two minutes.

The Canadiens would get the call back as David Savard earned another questionable two minutes for a hold on Danault. The third worst power play went to work and capitalized on this night. Alex Galchenyuk made a strong play on a scrambled draw to keep the Habs in the zone. He got the puck to Jeff Petry who then found Jonathan Drouin at the top of the circle and the top pivot took advantage of a great screen by Andrew Shaw to slap one past Bobrovsky and make it 2-0 Montreal early.

Columbus then started hitting everything that moved, but the strategy backfired somewhat as David Savard earned a penalty for interference only a minute later. This time, they would fail to convert although they did direct seven shots toward Bobrovsky, with only three reaching the net. Immediately following the man advantage, Nicolas Deslauriers picked off a pass in the opposite zone but was stopped on his partial break as Montreal completed an 11-6 advantage in shots over the period.

The second period was the exact opposite to the first as the Habs stopped skating. This bad habit cost them early as Gallagher was called for slashing on the very first shift. The Canadiens killed the penalty, but much like the first period, it set the tone for the rest of the frame. Columbus returned to their physical style of play as the Montreal defenders consistently had to take hits to make breakout plays. With 17:02 to play, Drouin was called for Montreal’s second minor of the period. This time, the Blue Jackets looked dangerous, but Boone Jenner saw Price slide across to keep the two-goal advantage. Immediately following this save, Zach Werenski hit the crossbar.

The Habs started to climb back into the period until Byron Froese steamrolled into Bobrovsky and was called for goaltender interference. It was the right play by Froese as the Jackets were getting physical with Price, only it was way too obvious and had to be called. In the opening minutes of the power play, Carey Price absolutely robbed Jenner to keep the Jackets off the board yet again.

Columbus continued to dominate the period and were finally rewarded. With four minutes to play, Werenski sent a stretch pass to Artemi Panarin who chipped the puck to Josh Anderson who completely out-muscled Joe Morrow to the net. Morrow then blocked Price, yet left the puck near the crease long enough for Pierre-Luc Dubois to skate in and punch it home. The rest of the period would be uneventful, a positive for the Habs after spending the frame defending an 18-6 shot barrage by the Blue Jackets.

The Habs needed to make amends for what was a terrible second as they came out firing as Andrew Shaw was turned aside by Bobrovsky on the first shift of the third. As play resumed, the puck once again found Shaw who snapped one off the post to complete an excellent shift.

After the opening five minutes, the expected push to tie the game came from the Blue Jackets, forcing the Habs into a defensive shell. The entire team stepped up and defended the zone admirably as the bulk of Columbus chances came from the outside of the scoring areas, as the team even covered any potential rebounds by expertly blocking out the slot. It was a third period that was picture perfect for Claude Julien and likely seemed like an inanimate image to the fans in attendance. However, when the home team is playing this way to conserve a lead, it’s certainly easier to accept a boring period.

However, it wasn’t all boring as Seth Jones hit the post near the midway point of the period. Shaw then landed a big hit which landed Nick Foligno in the penalty box since anyone in the “new NHL” must seek revenge after a clean hit, according to Foligno and many other players on the ice. The power play was quiet, but it was a cautious man-advantage to be sure. Gallagher was stopped on a glorious chance as it expired after a bouncing puck found him.

Columbus would get their chance too as Jacob de la Rose would be called for holding. Price made a series of saves on the man advantage, most importantly giving no rebounds over this series of saves. With the advantage over and three minutes to play, Morrow decided it was a good time to pinch to help the offence. The result was predictable as Columbus came down a 3-on-1 on Jordie Benn who played it excellently and thwarted the effort. Then, with two minutes to play and the Columbus net empty, Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty were given way too much time to break out and found Shaw who scored into the empty net and sealed the deal.

HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars of the Night

1st Star – Carey Price

It takes only a quarter season without the MVP in full form to understand just what he means to this team. Anyone claiming to be a Montreal fan and have a problem with this summer’s extension needs to be shown the exit immediately. This team is built around him, and it needs him in top form to be even close to effective. Welcome back, Carey!

Stats: 37 saves, .973 SV %, 1.00 G.A.A.

2nd Star – Andrew Shaw

Though not visible all night long, Shaw was excellent in the third period as he also scored the final tally to put the game out of reach. It was an empty-netter, but Shaw was all over the ice in the third, creating frustration for the Jackets with his physical play, and scoring chances for his teammates with his smart and effective forecheck.

Stats: 1 goal, +1, 2 shots, 3 hits, 17:02 T.O.I.

3rd Star – Brendan Gallagher

I would argue that like Shaw, this was not a complete effort by Gallagher, but he was a force in the first period, enough so to get Montreal a lead that they would never relinquish. He scored the opening goal, created many chances, and blocked some key shots over the course of the game. Being his usual warrior self was sufficient to earn him a star on this night.

Stats: 1 goal, +1, 6 shots, 1 hit, 1 block, 14:38 T.O.I.

Honourable Mention: Jeff Petry

Jeff Petry has been his very own version of the ‘man mountain’ since Shea Weber has been sidelined. I’ve said it recently, but if Petry can play this intelligently when Weber returns, this blueline might just be able to get some positivity snowballing in their favour.

Stats: 1 assist, 0 (+/-), 1 shot, 4 hits, 3 blocks, 28:55 T.O.I.