It’s nice to have depth on D, especially with Andrei Markov gone until …
Well, who knows?
With P.K. Subban a healthy scratch for the second game in a row, the Canadiens won consecutively for the first time in two weeks.
Yannick Weber played 16:20 and was on for all of the Canadiens’ goals en route to a plus-3 – the best number on either team.
The youngster’s D partner, Alexandre Picard, wasn’t too shabby, either: 16:43 of the solid, conservative hockey at which the well-traveled Dman excels.
It’s too bad the NHL doesn’t have an award for the general manager who leads the league in successful reclamation projects, because Pierre Gauthier would be a lock.
Picard, Mathieu Darche, Jeff Halpern – all three made solid contributions to an outstanding team win against a very tough Western Conference opponent.
For the first 30 minutes of the game, it looked like San Jose would skate and hit the Canadiens right out of their own building.
The success or failure of hockey plays is usually a function of time and space. For the first period and into the second, the Sharks didn’t give the Canadiens much of either. But that changed as the game wore on.
Jacques Martin acknowledged his team’s “difficult beginning”, then pointed out San Jose had “five scoring chances in the first period and five the rest of the way.”
“We wanted to start quicker,” Martin added. “But maybe it was because it was an afternoon game and our third in 2 1/2 days.”
The Canadiens weathered the early storm because of Carey Price, First Star brilliant again, and because the Lars Eller-Darche-Benoit Pouliot line contributed shifts in which the puck was in the Sharks’ end.
The other lines struggled. Nine forwards had zero shots on goal after the first 20 minutes.
“It was a game of grinders,” Martin said. “The Eller line was good, the others had more trouble. But from the halfway point, we had more control of the puck in the offensive zone.
Tomas Plekanec’s spectacular goal – man, he’s just so good in every game – energized his teammates, as did Martin’s line-tinkering: Halpern to centre Mike Cammalleri and Travis Moen, with Scott Gomez dropping down to the fourth line, between Max Lapierre and Tom Pyatt.
An oddity: Gomez had more ToI than Plekanec, 16:24 to 15:17.
The Canadiens top minuteman was Roman Hamrlik, who played 23:01 and blocked five shots. As was the case last season, Hamrlik has been a horse since Markov was injured. He and Jaro Spacek may not be the flashiest pairing in the league, but they get the job done, usually against the opponents’ top line.
Today that was Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau. Heatley, booed every time he touched the puck, had five SoG and the Canadiens blocked another four. Plekanec beat Thornton like a rented mule in the faceoff circle – 9-7, but 8-4 through 40 minutes – and the Sharks’ captain proved to be one of the few forwards in the league incapable of catching up to Hamrlik on a play that resulted in Cammalleri’s insurance goal.