Thursday, March 20, 2014

What a Weekend of Montreal Hockey

Greetings Habs Addicts!

Coming off a horrible west-coast road trip and a deflating loss to the Boston Bruins, things were looking pretty bleak in the eyes of Habs fans. Going into the weekend, Carey Price was still day-to-day with his lower-body injury with no certain return date. Thomas Vanek had yet to score a goal for the Habs. It was certainly looking like another long slump was upcoming.

Then Ottawa happened. Carey Price made his return to the line-up but looked rusty early on. Montreal jumped all over the Senators early on with Daniel Briere scoring in the first minute of the game. The Habs continued to attack the Senators, firing shot after shot and setting up chance after chance, but failed to capitalize on them. Jason Spezza took advantage of an early defensive lapse to score and after out-shooting the Senators 17-4, the game was tied 1-1 after one period.

The second period was a different story, as Montreal backed off as they tend to do and Ottawa out-shot the Habs 16-9. The only goal of the period was scored by Zach Smith on a break-away after another Habs defensive lapse. 2-1 Ottawa after two. The third period was more Ottawa domination, as Ales Hemsky and Clarke MacArthur scored in the first five minutes to extend the Senators lead to 4-1. Brendan Gallagher was on the ice for all four goals against, capping one of his worst performances of the season. Tempers and frustration took over. Brandon Prust squared off with Milan Michalek, earning five minutes for fighting and two minutes for roughing. Shortly after that the Senators Chris Neil got involved with Travis Moen and Dale Weise with all three earning 10 minute misconducts for bad behaviour. This effectively took the entire Habs 4th line out of the game.

With five minutes left in the game, fans started heading to the exit. Boos started to rain down. Then finally the luck began to change. Lars Eller scored his first goal in 25 games to make it a 4-2 game with just under four minutes to go. Brian Gionta followed that up less than two minutes later to make it 4-3. P.K. Subban helped set up both those goals and seemed to finally be unleashed offensively. After a dazzling end-to-end rush by Subban led to a late Hooking penalty on Kyle Turris, Montreal went to the power-play with 1:48 left to play. Coach Michel Therrien promptly pulled goaltender Carey Price to give the Habs a six-on-four advantage. A ballsy move by a coach with nothing to lose in this situation. The gamble paid off as the improbable happened. With 1.9 seconds remaining in the game and in a situation where most defenders would simple shoot the puck on net, P.K. Subban found a wide-open David Desharnais in the slot and rifled a pass to little Davey, who promptly roofed the puck on Robin Lehner as time expired. 3-tenths of a second remained as the puck crossed the goal-line. The Bell Centre erupted as the Habs forced overtime.

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In overtime, Montreal kept the pressure on a deflated Ottawa club. Subban had another crowd-lifting end-to-end rush before a scramble in front pushed the puck to a pinching Francis Bouillon, who netted the game winning goal to cap one of the greatest regular-season comebacks in the 104-year history of Montreal hockey. The Habs set an NHL record for most goals in a comeback win with five minutes or less remaining in a game with the 5-4 overtime win.

On a personal note, I was lucky enough to be in attendance at the Bell Centre on Saturday night. I have been fortunate enough to attend many games in the Bell Centre over the years, including multiple Leafs vs Habs match-ups. As the Habs rallied to tie the game, the crowd noise was deafening. I literally had to shout into my girlfriends ear for her to hear anything I said. Only once before have I experienced the arena this loud: When Georges St. Pierre was walking to the Octagon to take on Josh Koscheck at UFC 124 in December of 2010. The atmosphere was incredible and goes to show why the Montreal experience is the greatest in the game.

On Sunday, the Habs travelled to Buffalo to take on the hapless Sabres and I remained in Montreal as a guest of the boys at Montreal Hockey Talk. As a participant on both the pre-game show and the post-game show, I was able to enjoy the game itself from the comforts of their studio lounge. Heading into the game, it was announced that Carey Price would be remaining in Montreal to further rest his ailing knee. Dustin Tokarski was recalled from Hamilton, presumably to back up Peter Budaj. Michel Therrien had other plans, opting to start Tokarski for the second time this season. The move paid off as the youngster made 29-saves in a 2-0 shutout victory over the Sabres. The Habs dominated early on. Dale Weise deflected in the first goal of the game and Brendan Gallagher scored shortly thereafter, making a strong return after his performance the day before against Ottawa. The Habs out-shot the Sabres 26-18 after two periods of play and seemed to rest on their laurels in the third period, seemingly content to protect a two-goal lead. Thomas Vanek failed to score a goal, but played a solid game and had his chances in his return to Buffalo after being traded earlier in the season to the New York Islanders. Overall, it was a boring game to both watch and talk about afterwards but it was a solid performance after an emotional win the day before.

Coming off the disappointing road trip and subsequent defeat to the Bruins, there was no reason for optimism heading into the weekend. The return of Carey Price changed that. Following the two weekend victories, This past Tuesday, the Colorado Avalanche came to town. Patrick Roy, making his first appearance in Montreal behind an NHL bench drew all the headlines, but the Habs spoiled his homecoming. Thomas Vanek finally scored his first goal as a Canadien, then added two-more during the game. The Vanek hat-trick paced the attack as the Habs trounced the Avalanche 6-3. A team seemingly on the brink of a late season collapse have now seemingly re-established themselves as competitors in the East.

My how quickly things can change.

Note: Monday Musings shall return this coming Monday.

Nick M. is a transplanted Montrealer, currently living in evil LeafLand. He is a contributor here at and give him a follow, as he can often be found rambling on Twitter.


Nick Murdocco (spelling?), if this is you, how about stopping the Fanboy approach to journalism that made your weekend show at The Team 990 such a joke along with your amateur-hour partner? Seriously, try to temper the personal comments and be more professional. There is no doubt you can write and that you know the Habs, but it's never bad to be as professional as possible when you are acting like a correspondent.

@Anonymous, I'm not Nick Murdocco. A quick look at my signature at the bottom or my twitter profile would have easily confirmed that.

The fact is I simply am a Habs fan, not a professional journalist. So I did take the 'fanboy' approach to this article because I was recapping my personal experience in relation to the games I watched.

Nonetheless, thanks for reading.

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