Saturday, December 3, 2011

Canadiens - Kings: Carey Price Holds the Fort as Habs Snap Losing Streak

How exciting, the Montreal Canadiens actually won a game!

The script started playing out the same way it did over the last four games, with the Habs leading the game and having ample opportunity to win. But unlike during their four-game losing streak, the Canadiens were able to hold on to the victory.

Montreal overcame a weak first period that saw them hand the Kings three powerplays, en route to being outshot 14-5 through the first 20. That they escaped the first with a 1-0 lead—Tomas Plekanec scored on the powerplay—was largely due to Carey Price's brilliance.

Price was in top form all game, as was his counter-part, Jonathan Bernier. As such, fans were treated to a real goaltending duel.

The Habs netminder was unbeatable save for a second period deflection by Dustin Penner, earning the game's first star and the win.

Final score: Habs 2 - Kings 1

Game Notes

What a save! - About half way through the first period Jack Johnson dumped the puck into the Habs zone along the boards. Instead of swooping behind the net, the puck took a strange bounce off the glass and ricocheted out front, straight towards the Habs net.

Price was already on his way behind the net to get the puck and had to scramble back, barely getting his stick in the way and stopping what would have been an embarrassing goal.

Would that have been payback for the stick call on Marty McSorley in 1993?

Big guns - The L.A. Kings are a team that Habs fans don't get to see that often. Being in the Western conference and the NHL schedule being what it is, Montreal only plays them once this year.

And it's too bad.

Watching L.A. play, they have an excellent collection of young, skilled players in their lineup. From Jack Johnson to Anze Kopitar. From Drew Doughty and Dustin Brown to Jonathan Bernier, this is a team that has a serious collection of talent.

As such, it was a treat to watch them zipping around the ice and mostly dominating play against the Habs. Especially in the first period.

Keep in mind that prize off-season acquisition, Mike Richards, was injured and not in the lineup.

The Kings record so far this season may be a pedestrian sixth overall in the West, but they are only five points out of first. Either way, it was a treat watching what should be a top team for the foreseeable future.

AK-Forever - Despite missing a handful of games due to injury, Andrei Kostitsyn has been one of the most consistent Canadiens all season long.

And that is no small accomplishment if you consider that consistency has always been his Achilles heel. That one aspect of his game that fans and coaches alike have yearned for.

Not only is Kostitsyn consistent—try saying that 10 times fast—but he is using his body more effectively and has become a better player for it.

On the Habs first period powerplay goal, it was setup by Kostitsyn parking himself in front of the Kings netminder. AK46 is a big guy and when he stands there he is not easy for opposing defenders to move.

So when the shot came from the point, AK46 not only caused a screen—and some ensuing chaos—but was able to get the rebound back to Plekanec who fired a shot top-shelf.

Kostitsyn finished the night with two points (1G, 1A) a plus-1, two shots on goal, one hit and 14:56 of ice time.

Montreal might be on to something if only they could get Erik Cole, Max Pacioretty and Kostitsyn in the lineup at the same time!

Smokin' - Carey Price really is one of the best goaltenders in the league.

Night after night he seems to be the only reason the Habs win or are even in most games.

Against the Kings, it was more of the same as Price looked sharp turning aside 14 first period shots.

The Canadiens penalty kill is on fire this season and Hal Gill and Josh Gorges' shot blocking prowess gets a lot of the credit. But we have to remember that Price is really the backbone of the PK and Montreal's best penalty killer.

During the first period, Montreal was absolutely dominated. Moreover, with three first period PPs, the Kings had ample chance to open the scoring. But Price wasn't having any of it.

All game he was aggressive, at the top of his crease challenging shooters, fighting off traffic to make the save and otherwise frustrating the Kings.

He was the first star of the game, finishing the night with 26 saves and a .963 save percentage.

Stat of the afternoon - One. That is the number of powerplay goals the Habs have over the last seven games. That's 1-for-29 or an embarrasing 3.44 percent success rate.

Question of the afternoon - What to do with Louis Leblanc? Leblanc seems to be finding a home on the third line with Lars Eller and Kostitsyn. He earned his first NHL point (an assist) on a beautiful tic-tac-toe play with Eller and Kostitsyn against the Kings, and looks like a bonafide NHLer.

With Max Pacioretty returning from his three-game suspension next match, do you keep Leblanc in Montreal or send him back to Hamilton?

Up Next - The Canadiens return to the friendly climes of the Bell Centre for a Tuesday night tilt against the Blue Jackets. Pacioretty will be back in the lineup and the Habs will be hoping to grab another two points and get some momentum going.

As of the writing of this article, the Habs are back at .500 and, with 27 points in the standings, are eighth overall in the East.

Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of and Montreal Canadiens Blogger on 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

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(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images North America)


Good stuff Kamal.

After killing off some early penalties, I felt the Habs played one of the better games of their up-and-down season. But it's a stretch to say they are .500. 11-11-5 is more like 11-16, no?

As for the powerplay, it is indeed embarassing. Why is Josh Gorges playing the point? Seriously...

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