The Canadiens’ penalty-killers were in the spotlight Thursday night as Montreal defeated the Minnesota Wild 2-1, before an overflow crowd of 18,568 at the ExCel Energy Centre.
The Canadiens were assessed four consecutive penalties which left them shorthanded for a span of 5:51 in the second period, including a 2:10 span when they were short two men.
But the defence and goaltender Carey Price proved equal to the task. The Wild managed seven shots on goal but were unable to score as the Canadiens held on to a 2-1 lead.
In fact, while Price was tested in close on several occasions, the best scoring chance while the Canadiens were shorthanded belonged to Robert Lang who had a clear breakaway coming out of the penalty box, only to be stopped by goaltender Josh Harding.
Montreal found itself in similar situation later in the period when Tom Kostopoulos was whistled off for delay of game while the Canadiens were killing a penalty to Mathieu Dandenault. That gave Minnesota another 30 seconds with a two-man advantage but again the Canadiens kept them at bay, allowing the Wild only one shot on goal.
When you added it up, the Canadiens were shorthanded for 10:27 in the second period, including a total of 2:29 when they short two men. Ironically, the Canadiens had taken the lead earlier in the second when they scored with a two-man advantage.
The final count for the game had the Eild going 0-for-10 on the power while the Canadiens were 1-for-5.
Defenceman Andrei Markov snapped a 1-1 tie when he connected on a one-timer on a pass from Alex Tanguay at 2:23. The Canadiens were handed a two-man advntage when Saku Koivu’s younger brother, Mikko, was called for slashing with Benoit Pouliot already serving a minor for holding.
It was the first goal of the season for Markov, who has been placed in the shooter’s role on the power play. But Markov also has 10 assists and has scored at least one point in eight of the Canadiens’ nine games this season.
Tanguay also assisted on the Canadiens’ first goal by defenceman Francis Bouillon, who scored on a slapshot from the point at 4:28 of the opening period. Tanguay extended his points streak to three games. He has three goals and two assists in that span.
The Wild, which was the last team in the NHL to lose a game in regulation when it dropped a 4-2 decision in Dallas Wednesday night, opened the scored when Brent Burns redirected a pass from James Sheppard at 1:31.
Eric Bélanger had an opprtunity to tie the score early in the third period when he ad a breakaway while the teams were playing 4-on-4. He managed to get Price to make the first move but he put the puck over the empty net.
After the game, the Canadiens flew to Long Island where they will be reunited with defenceman Mark Streit Saturday night (7 p.m., RDS, CJAD Radio-800). Streit, who signed with the Islanders as a free agent during the offseason, shares the scoring lead for the Islanders and is the team leader in ice time.