Yesterday was a big day for the Montreal Canadiens for several reasons. For one, it was the trade deadline day and fans and players alike were holding their collective breaths wondering what the organization would do. Rumours swirled around players like Rene Bourque, Josh Gorges, Daniel Brière, Brian Gionta, Andrei Markov, and Lars Eller. Would they still be with the bleu, blanc, rouge? And who, if anyone, would they be able to bring in to help the team?
I’m sure as the 3 p.m. deadline approached many fans were thinking that Marc Bergevin was following in his predecessors footsteps and not doing anything of significance. He had brought in veteran defenceman Mike Weaver from the Carolina Hurricanes and goaltender Devan Dubnyk from the Nashville Predators. Both are depth players and Dubnyk was heading to farm team Hamilton, so he clearly doesn’t factor in the Hab’s immediate plans.
Then shortly after 3 p.m. it was announced that Montreal had acquired winger Thomas Vanek from the New York Islanders. It took most by surprised and the fact that Bergevin was able to get a high profile player for a conditional 2nd round draft choice (2014) and prospect Sebastian Collberg was highly praised. Austrian native Vanek is exactly the type of player the team was looking for in that he has size and has twice scored 40 goals over his career. Trading for him is a sign to the team that the management is invested in supporting them for the upcoming playoffs.
The second important thing is that the Canadiens defeated the NHL top ranked Anaheim Ducks at home, a place that has been very difficult for visiting teams to come into and get points. It was obvious from their 1st period play that the Habs’ players were buoyed and had a jump in their step. Montreal started off the game well with a good forecheck that led to a couple of Anaheim icings. The success was due to the fact that they were often first to the puck and demonstrating good second effort.
A few roster changes had been made before the game by head coach Michel Therrien. He decided to start Dustin Tokarski in nets. This made sense in that number one goalie Carey Price (who was on the ice yesterday doing a light workout) was still out with a lower body injury and back up Peter Budaj had played the last 4 games. The Canadiens also had another game the next night, so Tokarski got the call. Centreman Lars Eller, who has being going through a miserable patch, was also left out of the line-up. Eller has just 1 goal in his last 22 games. Daniel Brière would take his place on the 3rd line with George Parros brought back into the line-up. This was a classy move by Therrien as Parros had played in Anaheim for several years and was a very popular player. This was evident with the video tribute they did for him during a TV time out and the ovation he got.
For Anaheim Teemu Selanne was out of the line-up due to the flu. Coach Bruce Boudreau decided to go with 11 forwards and 7 defencemen though one, Luca Sbisa, was lined up as a forward.
Montreal won the only other game between the teams. They won 4-1 at the Bell Centre at the end of October. It was a surprise win in that Anaheim is seen as the much stronger side. This game would turn out to be a surprise as well.
Early on in the game Parros demonstrated his worth when he took on Tim Jackman in a fight. Parros initiated the fight because of a high hit by Jackman on Josh Gorges along the boards. The fight did not take any of the early momentum away from Montreal. Duck goaltender Jonas Hiller had to make a couple of good saves including a sparkling glove save from Brendan Gallagher from in close. Montreal was able to break through with the first goal. It came right off a face off in Anaheim’s end. Saku Koivu seemed surprised when Tomas Plekanec went forward right off the face off. The puck bounced around and Koivu was out of position. Brian Gionta was able to find it first and got his stick to it to poke it behind Hiller.
So dominant were the Habs that it took Anaheim almost 11 minutes to record their first shot on Tokarski. Once they broke the ice shots came fast and furious. On a powerplay they got 8 shots on the Habs’ goaltender. He remained calm and made some good saves. After they killed off the penalty Montreal answered right back with another goal.
Max Pacioretty scored his 30th goal of the season and the 98th of his career. The goal came courtesy of a great pass by David Desharnais. The guy seems to be always able to find a passing line even in the tightest of spaces. Hiller got a piece of Pacioretty’s high shot, but not enough to keep it from going into net.
The only worrying thing in Montreal’s game in the 1st period was the amount of power plays (3) they gave Anaheim. Alexei Emelin got two minor penalties in just over 4 minutes at the beginning of the 2nd period. The first was legit while the second involved some diving by Ducks’ Nick Bonino. The continuous penalties had the effect of the taking the momentum from the Canadiens’ and tiring out certain players.
In addition the Ducks are the only team in the NHL with a record over .500 when it gives up the first goal (17-10-1). Anaheim pumped 3 straight goals in during the 2nd period. Jackson scored at even strength at 7:08 then Francois Beauchemin got a lucky bounce power play goal with Emelin sitting in the box. The puck took a strange bounce off the metal dividers between the glass. Tokarski had gone behind the net to pick up the puck. He looked crushed after this goal and had to show character then shrug it off. Indiscipline was once again hurting Montreal on this road trip. Finally, Anaheim took the lead with a goal late in the period by Daniel Winnick.
Bad news kept coming for the Habs. Shortly after the 3rd goal by Anaheim Pacioretty was crunched on a hit by Beauchemin. It seemed like his shoulder took most of the brunt. He struggled to leave the ice and went straight to the dressing room and did not return for the rest of the 2nd period.
Sparkplug Gallagher righted the Montreal ship with a very late goal in the 2nd to tie the game 3-3. The puck was loose in front of the Anaheim crease after Hiller made a save on a PK Subban shot from the blueline. This is Gallagher’s office and he pounced on it and lifted it into the net.
3-3 is how the game remained through the 3rd period and overtime. A shootout happened. It went 6 rounds with Nick Bonino and Corey Perry scoring for Anaheim and David Desharnais, Daniel Brière and game winner Andrei Markov scoring for Montreal. After Desharnais and Brière beat Hiller via dekes Markov seemed to fool the Ducks’ goalie by unleashing a quick and precise wrist shot to the glove side.
Montreal’s hot streak continues with them having won 6 out of their last 8 games. Tokarski had a strong showing in his first start for Montreal making 39 saves. Gallagher was Montreal’s best forward on the night and had a goal and an assist to show for it. Right after the game Montreal continued on the road trip to Phoenix for the second of back-to-back games.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees – Chris Rooney and Mike Hasenfratz
Linesmen – Ryan Galloway and Mark Wheler
-Goals: 1st Period:
8:23: Montreal – Brian Gionta assisted by Tomas Plekanec
12:36: Montreal – Max Pacioretty assisted by David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher
7:08: Anaheim – Tim Jackson assisted by Luca Sbisa and Nick Bonino
9:07: Anaheim – (pp) Francois Beauchemin assisted by Jonas Hiller and Hampus Lindholm
18:11: Anaheim – Daniel Winnick assisted by Ben Lovejoy and Matt Belesky
19:24: Montreal – Brendan Gallagher assisted by Travis Moen and PK Subban
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 31
Anaheim – 42
-3 Stars: 1) Nick Bonino – Anaheim
2) Brendan Gallagher – Monteal
3) Cam Fowler – Anaheim
-Final Score: Montreal – 4 (SO)
Anaheim – 3