After escaping Saturday’s afternoon game with a win, Montreal returned home to face the New York Islanders. Although the Islanders are the second to worst team in the Eastern conference, the Habs had to be weary as the last time these two teams met it ended in a loss.
The Habs started off on the wrong foot as Lars Eller got called for interference only 40 seconds into the game. The Islanders failed to capitalize on their power play and moments later returned the favor when former Hab Mark Streit got called for hooking. The Habs were not very sharp on this power play and only created one scoring chance during the sequence.
The Islanders gained momentum from their penalty kill allowing them to catch the Habs defensemen off guard. This is when PA Parenteau made a nice pass to wide open Matt Moulson who then went on to undress Carey Price with a back hand shot.
1:25, later Montreal responded when Andrei Kostitsyn bagged his 9th goal of the season beating Al Montoya in the process. AK46 showed a great second effort on the play as he out-skated everyone to the puck before unleashing his quick release.
With the game now tied, both teams exchanged shots until Montoya let one squirt between his arm and right pad to give the Habs a one goal lead. Mathieu Darche was the recipient of the soft goal and was glad to accept as it was only his second goal of the season. The two teams continued to battle for the rest of the period but the goalies resisted keeping it a one goal game through one.
The same pattern continued throughout the second period as both teams exchanged shots and power plays. Montreal especially looked good on their second power play of the period as even though they did not score they did manage to get seven shots on Montoya. The Habs out-shot the Isles 15 to 10 in the period and exited with a little over 20 seconds of power play time that carried over into the third.
The Habs wasted no time capitalizing on their short power play early in the third when David Desharnais wielded some magic entering the Islanders zone. DD entered the zone and quickly dished the puck over to P.K. Subban. Subban returned the favor and Desharnais then made a nice move before feeding it to Erik Cole who was standing in the slot. Cole wired a one timer past Montoya and the Habs were up by two goals.
Now up by two, Montreal started to play the dreaded Jacques Martin system of sitting back and protecting the lead. This led to New York pushing back and started an Islanders come back. New York scored at the 4:56 mark when Josh Bailey made a dandy move to get Price out of position. This allowed him to beat Price with a back hand and the Islanders were now only down by one.
Cole tried to give his team a spark when he crashed the net at the other end on back to back shifts. His efforts did not seem to matter as other than his line mates the rest of the team did not follow. This allowed the Islanders to continue their attack as they decided to crash Price’s net looking for the tying goal. Price did his best to resist the onslaught but he was not able to cover the loose puck that John Tavares tapped in. So just like that the Montreal Canadiens failed to protect yet another two goal lead and the game was now tied.
The fans were not the only frustrated ones, as moments after the tying goal Price was seen slamming his stick on the ice. The stick broke but Price did not realize it right away as he used it seconds later to make a save on Marty Reasoner. Luckily for him it held up enough that he was able to stop play to get some new lumber.
With everyone having that here we go again feeling in the game, Petteri Nokelainen stunned everyone when he scored a goal out of nowhere. The play was started by Eller when he spotted Nokelainen entering the zone with a burst of speed coming from the bench. Nokelainen let one rip from the point and caught everyone off guard including Montoya restoring the Habs lead.
The goal completely changed the atmosphere of the game as moments later Cole was spotted wiping Nokelainen’s visor with a towel acknowledging his biggest goal as a Hab so far. The Habs used this momentum to keep attacking and did a much better job of not sitting back as much.
The Islander pulled Montoya with just over a minute to go hoping to tie the game once again. Hal Gill became another unlikely goal scorer when he opted to flip the puck out of his zone. The puck made its way into the Islanders empty cage and the Habs could finally feel secure in taking the two points.
This now marks the second game in a row where the Habs sat back and almost let the win slip away. When is management finally going to realize that this team is much better at defending a lead when they are aggressive on the fore-check and not sitting back? A lot has been spoken about the players not playing up to their potential and the revolving door of injuries. I am not disputing that these are factors in what ails the team but when you watch the team continuously blow lead after lead by sitting back there is only one person who is responsible for that and we all know who is.
HiD Three Stars
- Petteri Nokelainen
- Erik Cole
- David Desharnais
HiD Turning Point
Nokelainen’s third period goal completely changed the atmosphere of the game allowing his team to take the two points.