About last night …

There’s not much to add to Quick Hits.

In raising their road record to 19-19-1 – worst among 16 current playoff teams, but at least it’s .500 – your Montreal Canadiens got a giant monkey off their not-so-broad backs.

No matter what happens in Philadelphia and Carolina today, the Canadiens will wake up in sixth-place on Monday morning.

They’ll go back to practice and get ready for Chicago … with a pretty good idea of what has to be done to win the final home of the regular season.

The Canadiens played an almost-perfect road game in New Jersey. They held the home team to 21 shots, an easy outing for Carey Price’s team record-tying 70th appearance.

And, crucially, they didn’t let the Devils sore first. New Jersey had three shots in the first period, and one of them was Mattias Teddenby’s penalty. Thanks the goalpost for keeping that one out and maintaining an 0-0 score long enough for Mathieu Darche to get the Canadiens on the board.

If Tedenby scores and Jacques Lemaire’s guys ramp up the defnsive style for which they are justly famous and Martin F. Brodeur stops everything …

Well, it could have happened. But it didn’t.

The Canadiens were able to take advantage of a tired team that had played in Philadelphia on Friday night. Jacques Martin rolled four lines and got solid play from each, save for some defensive weakness by the David Desharnais line that allowed the Devils to spoil Price’s bid for another shutout.

Other than that brief flurry of New Jersey dominance, the Canadiens played Jacques Martin’s system to perfection.

Forwards got back deep to help clear the zone, and the puck moved up-ice through short, high percentage passes.

Darche re-energized Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta, who had their best game since Max Pacioretty was hurt. The captain had two assists for the first time since mid-November.

Michael Cammalleri’s seven shots on goal were the most since he got eight in a game in Ottawa on Oct. 16. Tomas Plekanec went 11-4 on faceoffs and played at top speed for 18:25, his energy level benefiting from only 1:09 of penalty-killing duty. Andrei Kostitsyn was in Martin F.’s face on P.K. Subban’s power-play goal.

Benched in Carolina, Lars Eller outskated the Devils all night and was on the ice when the siren sounded.

P.K.’s goal was his 13th, four more than any other rookie Dman in the league. He and Hal Gill did exemplary shut-down work on New Jersey’s top forwards.

No Devil had more than two SoG. The invisible Ilya Kovalchuk had one.

Controlling Jonathan Toews won’t be as easy.

But the Canadiens will be riding – WOO-HOO! – a one-game winning streak when the face the Stanley Cup champs.

•  •  •

Some good stuff from the Commentariat:

From PeterD:

Like many here I have been in a funk these last few weeks wondering if the Habs would start getting their collective game together and finish the season on a role and with strength and not what we had seen last year by drifting in by the seat of their pants.

I liked the game plan tonight and how everyone came to execute and commit. Every player to a man was on their game…we chased the Devils with speed, passing, heads up plays and hitting.

Pouliot looked good – speed, agility, deft passing and stick work.

Eller is a speed freak – always pressuring the D and forcing turn overs in tight quarters along the boards…just love that guy and hope he is with us for many years to come.
And Ryan White…I love that kid tough as nails and can play – loved that he went after what’s his name when Sopel got dumped into Carey’s net…he is not afraid of anyone and will back up anyone of his team mates…hey Pierre and Jacques, lets keep this guy in the lineup OK?
PK Subban gave me a couple of fits when he did some dipsy doodles at their blueline and gave it up…but I still love the guy and with his skill, talent and speed and constant passion for the game he can make some mistakes and I will still love him…but come on PK shoot some more OK…loved his goal. I dream of PK and Markov on the Blue line next year…for full season…then add in Gorges and Wizi…a good start on our Defense for sure.
Gomez has been a favourite of mine to bash whenever he gives me an opportunity to bash him, and hey that has been a lot this season…but I gotta give him props when he plays with his head in the game and not up his a–. He came tonight with leadership, passion, skill and speed to burn…along with Gio and Darche they looked threatening every shift they were out there.
I can’t really say anything too good or bad about Mara and Sopel – maybe it is a good thing to not notice some guys if they are just playing steady shifts and not looking like a liability out there. I do think Martin should start cycling Weber back into the line up to get him in playing shape and keeping him there. He is a talented kid with speed and he has improved a lot this year. Yeah he’s not a big physical presence out there but he is a servicable D-man and he has skills, speed and can move the puck out of the zone with passing and speed. I would like to see Weber in the next game and let Sopel rest.

From Habitoban:

Some observations: Benny: a very sound game. Better net positioning, crisp passing, some creative offence, timely hitting – sadly though, staying out of the box translates into less robust play. Goals will come for Benny and Eller, but it may be next season. Mara: I like this pick-up more and more. He seems to be playing with more confidence and I find myself believing in him as well, although I will defer to those who know the position as to whether that is misplaced or not. Dezzy: I wasn’t convinced that he could play in the bigs given his size. He is slowly convincing me otherwise. White: a pleasure to watch someone who enjoys playing as much as he does. Looks like he’s just skating on outdoor Manitoba ice in January — of course, once your feet freeze and so you are feeling no pain. I think he brings a joyful spirit to the team that sometimes looks like it is coached by Vatican emissaries. I don’t know about the System, but four lines rolling…. That’s the Formula!

And from JF:

I got up this morning wishing the day and the game were over. I was sure I was going to see a repetition of last Saturday’s dismal effort against the Capitals. Instead, what I saw was an almost perfect game: lots of intensity, solid defence, guys going to the net, almost no penalties. Even so, with a 1-goal lead, I thought our missed chances would come back to haunt us. The two quick goals at the beginning of the third were an overwhelming relief, and the only flaw in that period was the bad shift by the Desharnais line which resulted in the Devils’ goal.

JM’s patience with Scott Gomez may finally be paying off. His line played a great game, and we may have seen why JM keeps Desharnais as a third-line centre. He does not have the brute strength to go up against the other team’s top line.

Mathieu Darche is the nearest thing we have at the moment to a replacement for Max Pacioretty. He does what Pacioretty does, and tonight he got the results.

It should be great for the team’s confidence to have finally solved Brodeur and Jacques Lemaire’s stifling system. Hopefully they can carry their solid play over into next week. When they execute JM’s system well, they’re tough to beat.

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