On a rare Sunday evening home game, there were several interesting things going on. The Canadiens came into the contest looking to snap a four game losing streak. Head coach Michel Therrien was looking for his 250 career win. Though forward Daniel Brière and defenseman Alexei Emelin were close neither would play against the Islanders. Montreal’s opponents, the New York Islanders, were finishing off a four game road trip and riding their own losing streak (3). Also, newly acquired Tomas Vanek would be scratched due to an upper body injury that occurred the previous evening.
Though Montreal has established themselves this season as one of the better defensive teams in the league they find themselves only at a .500 due to their lack of offensive production. Over their last 4 games Montreal has only scored 4 goals. That offense will certainly not get you too many wins. It is disappointing, but only 17 games into the season Montreal is not planning to change its style too much and open the floodgates. They have been playing some pretty good hockey and the panic button should not be pushed yet.
This was the first of three games between the two sides this regular season. Montreal has not won against the Islanders at the Bell Centre since 2011 so they were really looking to end that streak. Gabriel Dumont had been called up from Hamilton the day before and it was announced that he would be inserted into the lineup. Enforcer George Parros would be left on the sidelines while right winger Dumont would be slotted into his place on the 4th line along with Travis Moen and Ryan White.
The most important lineup change that Therrien would make on this evening would be his decision to reunite the EGG line. The youngsters, Lars Eller (E), Brendan Gallagher (G) and Alex Galchenyuk (G), have played very well while being together, but Therrien took Eller off the line for a couple of games in an effort to inject some offence into his 3rd line, but it didn’t work, so he reunited them. It paid off.
As you would have almost expected from two struggling sides the 1st period ended 0-0 with each side managing 10 shots on goal. There was a couple of scoring chances for each side, but neither was able to open the scoring. Both the Islanders’ Kevin Poulin and the Habs’ Carey Price were solid. Funnily enough it was not the veterans on the Canadiens that got them out of their slump it was the youngsters. All of Montreal’s 4 goals were scored by the youngsters with old man Lars Eller (24) being the eldest.
That little sparkplug every Montreal Canadiens’ fan has come to love got things going. Early in the 2nd period, taking a long Galchenyuk pass off his skates Gallagher barreled into the Islanders’ zone along the right hand side and quickly whipped a wrist shot to the far side of the goal from the top of the circle. Gallagher’s goal was his 8th of the season and he is the leader for the Canadiens.
Carey Price did allow two goals against, but they were both on the powerplay. The first was a great shot from the left point by Pierre-Marc Bouchard while Francis Bouillon was in the box. It tied things up at 1-1 at 7:23 of the 2nd period. The EGG line rectified things quickly with Lars Eller scoring on a power play on a one time from the right side of the slot off a nice pass from his linemate Galchenyuk. As his career goes on 19-year-old Galchenyuk has shown what a great passer he is and that makes sense with the vision and soft hands he possesses. Less than 3 minutes later another 19-year-old made an impact on the game. Again on the powerplay, this time a 4 minute high sticking penalty assessed to Thomas Hickey when he got his stick up into the grill of Brian Gionta along the boards, Michael Bournival positioned himself in the high slot and deflected a low shot by Raphael Diaz up and over the shoulder of Poulin.
Centerman David Desharnais’s troubles continued. He has only managed 1 assist in 17 games and is struggling mightily. When Daniel Brière is healthy enough to play it might mean Desharnais being on the sideline. He did not do anything on this evening that would cause Therrien to change his mind. Desharnais not only did not contribute offensively, but he found himself in the box serving a minor for hooking when the Islanders scored their second power play goal of the game to make it a one goal difference early in the 3rd period. Once again Price could do precious little as the goal bounced in off of Brock Nelson’s leg who was alone just outside the Montreal crease.
Therrien and the Montreal fans did not have to suffer due to tight collars for too long as it was once again the EGG line to the rescue. This time it was an even strength goal that was a result of hustle and a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play. Gallagher hustled into the Islanders’ zone and stripped Andrew MacDonald of the puck along the boards on the left hand side. He then quickly found an unmarked Eller in the slot who deftly touched a pass across the face of the net to Galchenyuk who slotted it past Poulin. In a demonstration of his passion and youth, Galchenyuk’s goal celebration consisted of him grabbing the Canadiens’ logo on the front of his uniform and kissing it. After the game he said that a couple of veterans gave him trouble about it and he won’t be doing it again. I say, “why not?” and hope there are many occasions for this young man to celebrate goals with the type of youthful exuberance we have not seen for a long time in Montreal.
Next up for Montreal is the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre on Tuesday evening. It should be a stiff test for the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge as the Lightning have opened the season fire with a 12-4-0 record and sit atop the Atlantic Division.
-Goals: 2nd Period:
1:46: Montreal – Brendan Gallagher assisted by Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller
7:23: New York – (pp) Pierre-Marc Bouchard assisted by John Tavares
16:14: Montreal – (pp) Lars Eller assisted by Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher
19:04: Montreal – (pp) Michael Bournival assisted by Raphael Diaz and Tomas Plekanec
4:10: New York – (pp) Brock Nelson assisted by Frans Nielsen
10:37: Montreal – Alex Galchenyuk assisted by Lars Eller and Brendan Gallagher
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 31
New York – 26
-Three Stars: 1) Alex Galchenyuk – Montreal
2) Brendan Gallagher – Montreal
3) Lars Eller – Montreal
-Final Score: Montreal – 4
New York – 2