Forward lines and defense pairings:
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Weise
Eller – Galchenyuk – Carr
Fleischmann – Plekanec – Andrighetto
Flynn – Mitchell – Byron
Beaulieu – Subban
Markov – Petry
Barberio – Pateryn
Scratches: Tom Gilbert (lower-body), Devante Smith-Pelly, Jarred Tinordi, Alexei Emelin
Injured reserve: Brendan Gallagher, Carey Price
Prior to the game tonight, I told everyone within hearing distance that the Canadiens leadership group would have a strong game. Indeed they did.
Tomas Plekanec scored the game’s opening goal, his first in 22 games. It was the first time in seven games that the Canadiens scored first. In addition to the goal, Plekanec was tied for the team lead with five shots on goal.
P.K. Subban also had five shots on goal and picked up an assist on Plekanec’s goal. Subban had 29:18 of icetime.
Andrei Markov had four shots on goal and was a plus-2. Markov made a beautiful pass to assist on Alex Galchenyuk’s goal.
Of the four team leaders Max Pacioretty had the weakest game particularly for the first 40 minutes. In the third period, Pacioretty assisted on Dale Weise’s goal and scored the game-deciding goal.
So how did I know?
I don’t think that there is any question that individually each of the above-mentioned players have not been playing up to their potential coming into to tonight’s game with lengthy droughts. Collectively, it was clear that the leadership group had checked out of the game against the Capitals once the Canadiens fell behind.
Many broadcasters have cited examples pointing to evidence that Michel Therrien has ‘lost the room.’ At the very least, Therrien’s relationship with the leadership group seems strained. A players-only meeting was called after the loss to Washington on Saturday.
The situation was serious enough to prompt Marc Bergevin to meet with the players on Monday afternoon to stop the bleeding. Bergevin told the players that he firmly supported the coaching crew. Further, the general manager called a news conference where he boldly, in so many words, made the claim that ‘when Mike goes, I go.’
Showing that the message had been received, each member of the leadership team found a way to make a contribution to the win.
How long will it last? Who knows. Icetime is still being allocated without any regard to production. Line combinations aren’t making much sense.
But for one game at least, the players have shown that they can step up. The ball is now in the coach’s hands to improve his game. If he doesn’t Bergevin will be challenged to ignore his pledge.
Changes to the lineup were a bit of a mixed bag. Sven Andrighetto played well but had less of an impact than when he was paired with Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller.
Greg Pateryn had a decent return to the lineup with three blocked shots and three hits including leveling J.T. Brown. Pateryn’s defense partner was a bit more of an adventure. Mark Barberio showed that he is an effective puck mover, and if not for a case of nervousness, might have had his first goal as a Canadien.
Barberio admitted to being “overexcited” looking awkward as he “overhandled” the puck on a first period scoring chance. Barberio wandered throughout the defensive zone causing some anxious moments for Habs defenders. Mike Condon and Barberio were equally to blame for Jason Garrison’s third period tying goal for the Lightning.
In addition to Garrison’s goal, Condon was responsible for an own goal credited to Nikita Kucherov. Condon was spectacularly unorthodox battling to make second saves often off chances created of his own making. That said, Condon was able to make key saves at the right time to get the win.
The Habs will be in Sunrise on Tuesday to take on the Florida Panthers in their final game of this calendar year.
▲ Tomas Plekanec, Daniel Carr, Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller, Andrei Markov, Sven Andrighetto
▼ Thomas Fleischmann, Nathan Beaulieu, Brian Flynn, David Desharnais, Torrey Mitchell