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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Canadiens - Senators: Opportunistic Habs Score Six, Snap Losing Streak

What a difference a win makes, eh?

The Canadiens, losers of five-straight games prior to last night, rolled into Ottawa for the fourth game of their current six-game swing. Things started off poorly for Montreal, with the Sens opening the scoring only 1:42 into the first.

And admit it, at that point you thought "here we go again," right?

But it wasn't to be, as Lars Eller got the Habs on the board with a wicked wrister, short handed, at 5:08 of the first. After that, the floodgates opened.

In total, Montreal scored four goals on their first seven shots, chasing Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson from his cage. Alex Auld didn't fare much better as the Habs received scoring all three of their top lines.

Ottawa dominated play for the first 30 minutes but, ultimately, Montreal was able to build momentum off their opportunistic goal scoring to seal the deal.

The win was coach Randy Cunneyworth's first as head coach of the Canadiens. Good on you Randy. This is a guy who is in a no-win situation and who a ridiculous amount of pressure on his shoulders. So it's nice to see him get the first 'W' under his belt.

Final score: Habs 6 - Sens 2

Game notes

The Price is right - While there is a lot of attention on the Habs explosive offensive last night, the win, once again, was signed by Carey Price. He continues to be the uncontested MVP of this team and, without him, they would probably be in the NHL basement.

Against the Sens, Price made 33 saves including 13 in the first and 29 over the first 40 minutes. And all this while the Habs were managing a measly five shots in the first.

The win was Price's 13th of the season. 11 of those wins have come when Price has let in two or less goals against.

Montreal has only won once, with Price in the net, when he has allowed three or more goals. That is at once a testament to Price's importance to this team and a condemnation of Montreal's inability to score.

The best players were the best players - We've all heard that sports cliche that in order to win, your best players have to be your best players.

Well, last night for the Habs, they were.

Coach Cunneyworth, in an effort to jump-start his team, shuffled the deck and came up with some interesting combo's that bore fruit.

Lars Eller, playing with Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty looked like a good combo, but so was the line of David Desharnais centering Louis Leblanc and Michael Cammalleri. Desharnais' vision coupled with Leblanc's tenacious play resulted in two markers.

On the first, the rebound off Leblanc's shot to the net was potted by a lurking Cammalleri. And on the second, Leblanc simply beat the netminder by himself.

The bottom line is that with players like P.K. Subban, Cammalleri, Cole and Tomas Plekanec getting on the board, Montreal got scoring from the people who should be scoring.

And all on the same night. How many times has that happened this season?

Josh Gorges - Stalwart. That is all.

How do you like them apples? - Benched as healthy scratches the previous game, both Eller and Subban roared back with strong games. Eller was finally getting a chance with two top-six wingers in Cole and Pacioretty, and he did not disappoint.

Moreover, his laser-wrister that dinged in off the post to open the scoring, was a thing of beauty. A goal scorers goal.

Eller continues to make a legitimate case for playing in the top-six on this team and, with no sign of Scott Gomez anywhere in sight, that shouldn't a problem for now.

Subban too bounced back, with a solid defensive effort and an equally strong offensive game. He was solid in front of his own net, played a much simpler game than we've seen in recent weeks and was rewarded with a goal and an assist.

Love him or hate him, it's a breath of fresh air to see Coach Cunneyworth generously leaning on his young players.

Stat of the night - Seven. That is the number of Canadiens players who had multi-point nights—Raphael Diaz led the whole pack with three assists. When was the last time that happened?

If the Habs are going to continue to win and turn their season around, they're going to need more offensive outbursts like last night.

Question of the night - What's going on with the injured players?

Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Andrei Markov to be specific.

What exactly is Gomez's injury? And Gionta's? They're skating, they're not skating. It's an arm injury, it's a groin injury.

Gionta, who looked like he injured his hand, apparently has a groin injury. Gomez, who is also supposedly suffering from a groin injury, doesn't seem to skate like a man who's groin is injured. At least according to many who have seen him skate recently.

And what about Markov?

We're about four weeks into the 4-6 week timeframe for him to be back on the ice—according to GM Pierre Gauthier. But no one's seen hide or hare from him. Also, Canadiens management hasn't released any info on Markov with no apparent updates in sight.

It's seems that Gauthier's Omerta is still in full effect.

Up next - The Canadiens have the day off before taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Tampa tomorrow night. It will be the first of a back-to-back against the two Florida teams, with the Habs wrapping up their road-trip on Saturday against the Panthers.

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Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and featured columnist on PowerScoutHockey.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 Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images North America)

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