As part of their wonderful and surprising season so far the Montreal Canadiens have done very well thank you against the Southeast Division. The Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Winnipeg Jets have been dominated by the bleu-blanc-rouge with Montreal going 8-0 versus the teams in that division. Anyone from that division seemed like the perfect opposition for Montreal being that they were playing two games in 48 hours, traveling back to Montreal from Philadelphia and having lost 5-3 to the Flyers the night before.
Winnipeg was the opposition on this evening at the Bell Centre and they were coming in on a four game losing streak and a 3 game road losing streak. They were holding a slim two point lead over Washington for 1st place in the division coming into the game and Washington won their game on the evening, so the Jets’ backs were up against the wall. The Jets like most other teams in the NHL are suffering from some injuries including Nik Antropov, Zack Redmond, Anthony Peluso, James Wright, and Jim Slater. Over their losing streak the Jets were having trouble scoring goals. In an effort to increase their offensive output Winnipeg coach Claude Noel decided to move Dustin Byfuglien up from defense to a forward position on the first line with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little.
Montreal also has some important players on the injury list. Rafael Diaz, Yannick Weber and Rene Bourque have been on for a long time. The latest member to join them is centreman Tomas Plekanec, who injured his groin early on in the game against the Flyers. He is to be evaluated day-to-day but would not be in the lineup against the Jets. Returning to the team after missing six games due to injury was Ryan White. Due to the injury to Plekanec Michel Therrien was forced to juggle his lines. Rookie Alex Galchenyuk was moved to centre (his natural position) on a line with Michael Ryder and Travis Moen. Like most decisions the coach has made throughout the year whatever he decides turns to gold.
Another good decision he made on the evening was to start back-up goalie Peter Budaj. It was the smart move in that Bdaj had a personal 5 game win streak going on and that his family was in town from Slovakia to see him play. A classy move by the coach to a player who has been the perfect back-up goaltender.
All throughout the season a big part of Montreal’s success has been their ability to rebound after a bad game or defeat. Their game against Philadelphia the night before was one of their worst of the season. I’m sure fans were holding their collective breath seeing if that ability to bounce back trend would continue.
Not long after Jets’ goaltender Ondrej Pavelec robbed Jeff Halpern from in close Winnipeg scored the game’s first goal. Alexander Burmistrov was left alone in front of the Montreal net by Michael Ryder and Grant Clitsome’s cross crease pass found him and he buried the puck behind Budaj. Despite the points Ryder has scored since being traded to Montreal from Dallas (an average of one per game) I’m still not convinced about that he is the type of player that is good for the team. Well, after that Winnipeg goal Ryder went on to change my mind a little. He is the type of player who might not be very physical or good in his own end, but if your team needs a goal he’s the man.
The power play has been an important part of Montreal’s game all season and it led them to victory again on this evening. The first came courtesy of the goat on the Winnipeg goal. It would be interested to find out how many of Michael Ryder’s goals have come via shots into empty nets. You can add one more to whatever that total is as that is how his goal number 14 of the season came about. Brian Gionta took a shot that Pavelec kicked out unfortunately for the Jets’ goalie the rebound came right to Ryder, a player who does not make many mistakes when opportunities like this present themselves. He buried the shot and tied up the game 1-1.
From that point on the game was pretty much under Montreal’s control. Ryder scored his second goal of the game and 15th of the season early in the 2nd period off a goalmouth scramble. He was able to locate the puck and chip it up and over a down and out Pavelec. Then the Habs added a second goal on the power play. This time it was team captain Brian Gionta. It was a lucky goal as a shot by Lars Eller deflected past Pavelec off of the inside of Gionta’s thigh. Since it was his first goal in 7 games I’m sure he’ll take it gladly. Another player who had gone many games without scoring rounded out the scoring in the 3rd period to make it a 4-1 victory for the Canadiens. Alex Galchenyuk, an offensively gifted player, had not scored in 17 games since February 23rd. In his first game back at centre, a position that he is infinitely more comfortable playing, he scored his 4th of the season.
Winnipeg upped the tempo in the 3rd period launching 16 shots towards Budaj, but the back-up held strong and stopped them all. The victory was his 6th in a row which is a career best for the goaltender. It was also Montreal’s 16th straight win over Winnipeg/Atlanta on Montreal ice.
Up next for the Northeast Division leaders is the team that is just one point behind them in the standings. The big bad Bruins are in town Saturday night for a tilt against the Habs at the Bell Centre. It is a game that many are looking forward to.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees – Mark Lemelin and Eric Furlatt
Linesmen – Jonny Murray and Steve Miller
-Goals: 1st Period:
8:16: Winnipeg – Alexander Burmistrov assisted by Andrew Ladd and Grant Clitsome
10:47: Montreal – (pp) Michael Ryder assisted by Brian Gionta and Lars Eller
2:03: Montreal – Michael Ryder assisted by PK Subban and Francis Bouillon
5:51: Montreal – (pp) Brian Gionta assisted by Lars Eller and PK Subban
7:43: Montreal – Alex Galchenyuck assisted by Michael Ryder and Travis Moen
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 24
Winnipeg – 34
-3 Stars: 1) Michael Ryder – Montreal
2) Peter Budaj – Montreal
3) PK Subban – Montreal
-Final Score: Montreal – 4
Winnipeg – 1