Breathe in deeply and enjoy the fresh air of a six-point gap between the Canadiens and eighth-place.
Then breathe out – with a whooshing sound – and consider how terribly wrong this could have gone.
And nearly did.
Thre road games this week.
Get well soon, Carey Price.
After the second period, Ron Reusch was telling me how good Curtis Sanford had looked in the Bulldogs game at the Bell Centre on Friday night.
Reusch and I were ready to put Alex Auld on waivers and the next bus to Hamilton.
But when the game was on the line in the third period, Auld made the stops he had to – with a lot of help from his friends.
Jacques Martin talked about the addition of Brent Sopel and the difference it made to Roam Hamrlik’s ToI.
Hamrlik, who had played an inhuman 28:33 in a losing cause against Toronto, was down to 17:30, a much more reasonable wokload for a defenceman on the wrong side of 35.
Hamrlik was not used on the Canadiens’ penalty kill, which was 4-for-4 with Sopel playing 2:08 of the shorthanded time.
Hal Gill, who’s almost as old as Hamrlik, played five of his 26 minutes on the PK. But his partner is the boundlessly energetic P.K. Subban, while Hamrlik is paired with the less effective James Wisniewski.
Gill had three turnover, while Wiz and Sopel each had four. It was a jitery night on the back end against some fast, aggressive Carolina forwards.
What won the game was speed and aggression by he Canadiens – especially Andrei Kostitsyn, who has two goals and two assists in the three games he’s played with Lars Eller – and without Scott Gomez.
Martin alluded to “chemistry” developing between AK46 and the rookie, who contiunues to prove he’s a better centre than a wing.
The coach also liked the play of his reconstituted top line, with Tomas Plekanec centring Jeff Halpern and Mike Cammalleri.
Plekanec was the only forward whose ToI exceeded 20 minutes. His 22:22 included almost four minutes on the PK and a stint at the right point – with Wiz shifted to the left – on the Canadiens’ only power play.
For the life of me I can’t understand Martin’s reluctance to give P.K. power-play time. There were 20 seconds of PP left when Subban finally came on with Hamrlik – and they both assisted on the Kostitsyn goal that won the game.
It was not one for the classic DVD collection.
Playing with the desperation of a team scrambling for a playoff spot, Carolina outshot the Canadiens 31-27 in their own building and had the fans restless through most of the evening.
But a W is a W. The Canadiens survived an Alex Auld start, bagged two crucial points and head to Atlanta with some momentum.
• Interesting stat: Tomas Plekanec became the first Canadien in 20 years to score 20 goals five years in a row. Can tyou guess the last?