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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Canadiens - Canes: Habs Complete Comeback, Down Carolina 4-3 in SO

The Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes clashed for the second time in a week tonight. But this time, things played out a little differently.

Shutout 4-0 by the Habs last week, Carolina got on the board within the first 10 seconds on a soft floater from the blueline. The puck was tipped slightly by Habs defenseman Alexei Emelin, but Carey Price should have had it.

Montreal fell victim to another strange goal at the six-minute mark, and all hope seemed lost. But not tonight.

Trailing 2-0 to start the third, the Habs stormed back to tie things up. It was a wild period that saw the teams take a 3-3 deadlock into overtime and then the shootout.

Price was solid in the shootout stopping all three Canes shooters for the win, with Brian Gionta the lone goal-scorer.

Final Score: Habs 4 - Canes 3 (OT)

Game Notes

Is that a goal? - Hurricanes forward Anthony Stewart made it a 2-0 game six minutes in on a strange play.

The play was a bit dodgy since the puck was frozen on top of the Habs net. In that case, the ref has to allow three seconds to pass before blowing the whistle.

That said, more often than not the play is whistled dead immediately.

However, against the Canes, the ref didn't blow the whistle, the Habs stopped skating and that left Stewart all alone to roof one past Price from five feet out.

There was a lot of debate on Twitter about whether that should have been whistled dead and if the goal should stand. And while it seems clear that the ref made the right call, the bottom line is that the Habs stopped playing and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the real reason for the goal.

Comfort Zone - Slowly but surely, Alexei Emelin looks like he's staring to "get" the North American game.

As a result, his decision-making is getting quicker and quicker.

You have to remember that, playing in the KHL, Emelin was used to the much bigger European rinks. That he is starting to make quicker decisions with the puck is a result of getting used to the smaller rinks.

In North America, the play comes at you much faster and so do the players.

If you watched Emelin playing against the Canes, he spent much less time with the puck on his stick. He was continually gathering the puck behind the net and firing off a quick, short breakout pass to the closest Habs winger.

And this is an aspect of Emelin's game that we are just starting to get a glimpse of: he's got a great first pass.

Hit the net! - With one win this season—earned tonight against the Canes—when trailing after the second period, it's clear the Habs would do well to score first in any given game. One area in which they could perhaps help in this department is by hitting the net more often.

In this first period, the Habs outshot the Canes 7-5 and had 12 other shots that missed the net. That missed shots total ballooned to 20 by the end of the game.

Prior to the match, Montreal was fifth in the league for most missed shots with 263 though 21 games. That's an average of 12.52 shots per game.

Brian Gionta, Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban were all tied for 11th overall (with three other players) with 29 missed shots each for the season. Next up for Montreal was Lars Eller, 28th overall with 25.

That gives the Habs the dubious distinction of being the only team in the NHL to have four players in the top-30 for missed shots.

Perhaps target practice needs to be on the menu for Montreal's next practice.

From bad to worse - Is Subban in a sophomore slump or what?

He's had flashes of goodness this season but his play has been mostly disappointing. In his defense, he is only 22 years old and the defensive position is one that takes the longest to learn at the NHL level.

That and he has been shouldering way too much load for a young player over the last season or so. That said, he seemed to have no problem pulling it off last season.

A tough year got tougher for Subban against Canes, as he played perhaps his weakest game of the season.

For most of the night he looked like he was skating in quicksand. Constantly stumbling and bumbling in the defensive zone, out of position, making poor decision, missing his assignments and one step behind the play.

To be honest, he looked like a guy that had a little too much fun the previous night. And that's not out of the realm of possibilities, considering the entire team went over to Erik Cole's house instead of humping it in a hotel the previous night.

Whatever the problem, you can add Subban to the list of players who will breath much easier once Andrei Markov returns.

I don't get it - I'm no fan of Jacques Martin. I've never hidden that fact and always thought he was a bad hire.

That said, watching him work his magic (cough, cough) and trying to decipher it can put your brain in knots.

After the second period against the Canes, the ice time for the top forwards read as follows:

Brian Gionta 15:24, Michael Cammalleri 13:57, Tomas Plekanec 12:44, Scott Gomez 12:31, Erik Cole 10:44, Max Pacioretty 8:06, David Desharnais 9:06, Lars Eller 6:46.

And this despite Eller being one of the best forwards and scoring the only Habs goal to that point.

I'm certainly not qualified to be an NHL coach, but when things are not working—and so far this season it's hit or miss—shouldn't you try something different?

To make matters worse, Eller saw exactly 0:00 of ice during the overtime period. This despite finishing the night with two points (1G, 1A) and a plus-2.

Poor Scott Gomez - He really does bring it on himself, but there was some hilarity on Twitter last night after it was announced that he went to the dressing room and would not return.

Here's a small sample:

@NHL_STATS
"Gomez not on bench...Hmm, traded? Hurt? Either or can only help..."

@kuyaz
"Maybe Gomez went to the dressing room to change into the vintage stripes jersey so we can properly play Where's Waldo. That'd be fun."

@HabsCoachK
"Seems like the most productive thing Gomez has done tonight is get reinjured."

@HabsLaugh
"RDS has no reason for Gomez being out. It's ok boys...I don't need a reason."

@BackwordssirhC
"maybe he got word his game was found in Alaska and he went to get it back"

Genius.

Stat of the night - Seven. That is how many goals Travis Moen has for the year. His goal against the Canes tied the game at three with about 16 minutes to play. It was also the 50th of his career.

Question of the night - With Hal Gill back in the lineup, Jaroslav Spacek around the corner and Andrei Markov on the mend, the Habs will soon have a logjam on the backend. My HabsAddict.com colleagues debated this issue but how would you solve the logjam? Does someone get traded? Demoted?

Up Next - The Habs have the day off before taking on the Flyers in a Friday afternoon matchup, in Philly.

Side Note - For those of you who have been asking, here's the link to the interview I did on New Zealand radio.

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Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com and Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on TSN Radio 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 9 - 10 AM. Listen live at http://www.tsn.ca/montreal/

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(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

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