Reader’s Digest version tonight, peeps.
Having returned from Scotiabank Place through a snowstorm only to discover the hotel bar is closed – Kanata: What a swinging town! – your old war correspondent is muy pissed off.
It was an excellent win – biggest of the season to date.
Had the Canadiens been riding a six-game losing streak – longest since the 2006-’07 season – down to Florida, there would a funereal atmosphere of darkness enveloping the team in the sunshine state.
(We interrupt this ALN to report that the mini-bar in my room is an empty fridge, useful only as a place of storage for the kind of goober who travels with a six-pack. And me without my hip flask!)
Stuff I liked:
• Giving up an early goal and not folding.
• Lars Eller playing like his hair was on fire and providing a perfect complement to his two big wingers. I am convinced this kid is going to be a terrific player.
• Mike Cammalleri busting his hump – a three-zone commitment we’ve rarely (OK, never) seen this season.
• To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen introducing Clarence Clemons, do we even have to say his name? Do we have to say his name? Ladies and gentlemen, the great Carey Price.
• Alexei Emelin played 20 minutes, had four hits and provided push-back lest Chris Neil and Zenon Konopka goon the Senators back into the game. Credit Travis Moen on that score, too. He did a lot of nose-to-nose woofin’ with the Senators’ heavyweights.
• Tomas Plekanec skated miles, made clever plays with the puck and went 12-9 on faceoffs.
As it was, your Montreal Canadiens laid a pretty good whuppin’ on a Northeast Division rival who looked suspciously like the Ottawa Senators we all thought they’d be, back in September.
• Raphael Diaz (plus-3) and Louis Leblanc, who joined DD and Cammalleri on a 67 per cent French Connection line, had their first multipoint games of the season.
• Mathieu Darche played 12 minutes and had two assists. All the fourth-line guys were good.
• Josh Gorges played a team-high 25:22, blocked three shots, covered for P.K. and was just … well, he was just Josh Gorges.
• Erik Cole popped his 14th, hustled on every shift and made a sub-par Ottawa D very nervous.
• I didn’t notice Tomas Kaberle’s 13 even-strength minutes. This is a good thing.
Finally, how about some props for the kindly old coach, a profoundly decent man who is universally liked and respected around the league?
Randy Cunneyworth made two of his best young players healthy scratches against Winnipeg, and they responded with brilliant games in Winnipeg.
Even better, the Canadiens played an outstanding, in-your-face third period, outshooting the Senators 7-6, forcing them into three brain-dead penalties and bagging a sixth goal for the first time this season.
The Canadiens are still 12th, four points out of a playoff spot.
Thursday’s game in Tampa Bay is huge because they’re a mere two points ahead of the Lightning, who hold games in hand.
In short, your Habs are not nearly out of the woods.
But the wolves have beaten a temporary retreat … possibly in search of a bar that’s open.