Forward lines and defense pairings:
Pacioretty – Plekanec – Gallagher
Andrighetto – Galchenyuk – Carr
Eller – Desharnais – Byron
Flynn – Mitchell – Smith-Pelly
Beaulieu – Subban
Markov – Petry
Barberio – Emelin
Scratches: Jarred Tinordi, Greg Pateryn, Tomas Fleischmann
Injured reserve: Carey Price, Tom Gilbert, Dale Weise
Some games are harder to watch than others, and that includes matches against the New Jersey Devils. It was dull game but to their credit, the Canadiens found a way to win.
With not a lot happening at even strength, it was through special teams that the Canadiens picked up their two goals. Max Pacioretty opened the scoring with a power-play marker. Torrey Mitchell picked up a short-handed goal set up beautifully by Paul Byron.
After the game, Pacioretty acknowledged that on many nights over the past month or so his team had lost the special teams battle. For a team struggling to score and escape a losing skid, it would have been a way out. In this game, with the team not yet firing on all cylinders special teams were a solution.
There were some bright spots. At times the first line started to look like a first line again. Plekanec had an assist and a good night at the faceoff dot. Pacioretty had a goal on four shots. And Brendan Gallagher provided the screen that led to Pacioretty’s first period goal.
For the past month, the one line who has been productive and creating scoring chances was Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller and Daniel Carr. Coming into tonight’s game, Galchenyuk had three goals and three assists in the last seven games.
So how did Devils coach John Hynes game plan to shutdown the Canadiens hottest line? No need. Montreal coach Michel Therrien took care of that providing a generous gift for the Bell Centre visitors.
The Galchenyuk line, with Carr and Sven Andrighetto had a tough night getting pinned in their own zone for long stretches particularly in the first period. Galchenyuk was held off the scoresheet and for a rare occasion, ended the game with negative shot attempts posting a Corsi of minus-8.
Eller’s addition to the third line was beneficial to Devante Smith-Pelly who played one of his better games in recent memory. Jeff Petry was the best of the blueliners turning the tide on some difficulties in December. Mike Condon wasn’t seriously tested by a team that struggles to comeback once down but was sharp when needed.
This effort was a step in the right direction but just a baby step towards regaining team confidence and there are liking to be more bumps in the road along the way.
The Habs have a couple of days of practice before hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.
▲ Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, Paul Byron, Devante Smith-Pelly, Lars Eller, Jeff Petry
▼ Alex Galchenyuk, Daniel Carr, Sven Andrighetto, P.K. Subban, Nathan Beaulieu