It was one of those rare nights at the Bell Centre in which the Canadiens was playing and they took a back seat. The evening belonged to Jean Béliveau and the fans’ and organization’s remembrance of him. It was an emotional night, even players who were not alive when he played seemed affected and moved by what was going on. The entire evening was like a tribute to Mr. Béliveau. I couldn’t help but be saddened by the thought that it was the end of an era. An era in which it was a thing of honour to be a member of the Montreal Canadiens. NHL hockey has become a business with the values of the past discarded. For one evening though it felt like the good old times and if I closed my eyes I was back at the Forum with the organ playing music and a certain electricity in the air.
From the humble and understated pregame video ceremony to the real moment of silence where not a sound could be heard for a full minute, it was all done with the class and form that we have come to expect from the Montreal Canadiens. They really know how to do things of this sort the right way. Announcer Michel Lacroix told us that the seat usually occupied by Jean Béliveau, which now had the number four on it and a light, would remain empty as long as the family wanted. So the official attendance for games would be down by one to 21,272. The highlight of this portion of the night (and pretty much the night in general) was when every person in attendance stood together for a prolonged standing ovation to honor Le Gros Bill. Finally overcome by emotion Elise Béliveau broke down and then held her hands up to the sky. That was it for me as the tears began to flow. It was an evening of moments.
As for the game it was an important one for Montreal in that they were in the midst of 6 losses in 7 games rough patch. The first game back after a road trip is oftentimes a tough one, but probably buoyed by the emotion of the evening they came up with a solid team effort.
Michel Therrien decided to shuffle all of his lines including putting Alex Galchenyuk at center and separating Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais for the first time in a very long time. The line shuffling seemed to work as all four lines played well and contributed in their own way. It also marked the return to the line-up of defenceman Nathan Beaulieu and winger Michael Bournival.
The 1st period was a cautiously played affair by both sides. Vancouver, the surprise team in the West so far this season, must be tired as they are in the middle of a 14 day roadtrip. Though they did manage two early high quality scoring chances. As he has done all season Carey Price kept his team in early with two great saves with the biggest being when he robbed Nick Bonino of a sure goal by diving back across the net a al Dominic Hasek and stopping the puck with his stick on the goal line. There were plenty of blocked shots (especially by Vancouver, who blocked a whopping 26 by the end of the game), few shots by both teams and plays broken up in the neutral zone. It ended knotted at 0-0.
Finally the first goal of the game came just before the 7 minute mark of the 2nd period. Along the half wall in the Vancouver end Brendan Gallagher collected the puck on his backhand and then quickly moved to his forehand. In the blink of an eye he launched a shot at the Canuck net. It seemed to take Ryan Miller by surprise and found the back of the net high on his glove side. 1-0 Montreal. It was only the tenth time this season Montreal has scored the first goal and they had a perfect record in those games.
The lead lasted exactly 5 minutes when the game was tied up once again. With Brad Richardson sitting in the box Vancouver scored their 4th shorthanded goal of the season. A lob from Kevin Bieksa bounced off the skate of Andrei Markov right to Jannick Hansen, who found a streaking Derek Dorsett. Dorsett just redirected the puck past Price.
It seemed like we might be going to overtime as the game remained tied deep into the 3rd period. Both teams were playing tight checking hockey. Finally, rookie Sven Andrighetto, who has a point in his first two NHL games, was the architect of a beauty of a winning goal. Andrighetto and Tomas Plekanec worked a give-and-go that ended with Plekanec roofing the puck from in close.
Vancouver pulled Miller with 0:49 left in the game, but the hockey gods would not allow Montreal to lose on this evening. Pacioretty iced the game with an empty net goal at 19:59. After the final siren Mme. Béliveau was shown clapping and dancing in celebration. She even was blowing kisses to the players. In a very classy move Plekanec made sure that the game puck was given to her.
If we were to pick apart what was a solid team victory we could once again point to, as we have been all season, the Habs’ pathetic power play. It went 0 for 5 and they relinquished a shorthanded goal. Room for improvement there.
Next game for Montreal is Friday night at the Bell Centre against the Los Angeles Kings.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees – Marc Joanette and Justin St. Pierre
Linesmen – Steve Barton and Michel Cormier
-Goals: 2nd Period:
6:56: Montreal – Brendan Gallagher assisted by Max Pacioretty and Tom Gilbert
11:56: Vancouver – (sh) Derek Dorsett assisted by Jannick Hansen and Kevin Bieksa
15:44: Montreal – Tomas Plekanec assisted by Sven Andrighetto and Jiri Sekac
19:59: Montreal – (en) Max Pacioretty assisted by P.K. Subban
3 Stars: 1) Tomas Plekanec
2) Alex Galchenyuk
3) Ryan Miller
-Final Score: Montreal – 3
Vancouver – 1