Suffering Canadiens withdrawal? The Gazette has the answer with the ultimate fantasy experience as beat writer Pat Hickey and Gazette techie Eric Tobon employ EA Sports NHL 13 to produce The Season That Isn’t. Here’s how things might have looked in Thursday night’s game between the Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place.
EDMONTON – It took 10 games for Canadiens backup goaltender Peter Budaj to make his first appearance of the season and the veteran from Slovakia made the most of the opportunity.
Budaj stopped all 29 shots he faced as the Canadiens blanked the Edmonton Oilers 2-0 Thursday night at Rexall Place. His performance included a spectacular glove save on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins early in the third period when Montreal was clinging to a 1-0 lead.
“I understand what my role is and I have to take advantage when I get a chance to play,” Budaj said. “Carey (Price) has been playing well and the team has been winning, but it was good to play and it was even better to come away with a win and a shutout.”
Defenceman P.K. Subban provided the Canadiens with a 1-0 lead at 14:53 of the first period when he joined the rush with Tomas Plekanec and found the five-hole against Oilers’ goalie Devan Dubnyk.
“My first thought was to give the puck back to Pleky, but their D-man seemed to be waiting for that so I decided to shoot,” Subban said. “I kept the shot low so that Pleky would have a chance at the rebound.”
Subban also collected an assist on Lars Eller’s insurance goal, although it was Louis Leblanc who did the heavy lifting on the play. Leblanc won a battle with highly touted rookie defenceman Justin Schultz behind the net and managed to find Eller in front.
The game was surprisingly tame. Edmonton took only one penalty, while the Canadiens took three, and one of them was for having too many men on the ice. This has been a concern over the past two seasons when Montreal has led the NHL in bench minors, but this marked the first time this season the Canadiens failed at arithmetic.
The one disappointing note to the game was the departure of defenceman Raphael Diaz in the second period with back spasms.
“We don’t think it’s serious, but you never know with backs,” coach Michel Therrien said.
The win gave the Canadiens an 8-2 record and first place in the Eastern Conference. The final stop on their Western Canada swing will be Saturday when they face the Vancouver Canucks, who currently lead the Western Conference with a 9-2 record.