The Montreal Canadiens continued to prove naysayers wrong with two strong, back-to-back games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins. The Penguins beat the Habs 1-0 on Tuesday, but the bounced back Wednesday to beat the Bruins 6-5 in a shootout. With the two points, Montreal leads Boston by one point for the Northeast division lead while they trail Pittsburgh by five points for first in the Eastern conference. This on the heals of a season where they finished in last place and drafted third overall.
The loss to Pittsburgh only happened because a fellow named Sidney Crosby was able to score. It was the only goal of the game. Montreal dominated large parts of the game. Carey Price stopped 24 shots, while Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun had to combine for 35 saves to preserve the shutout.
“It was a strong game by both teams,” Price said after the game. “I thought we played well and that’s the disappointing part.”
Jeff Halpern returned to the Habs lineup after being claimed on waivers from the New York Rangers Saturday. He played 72 games for the Habs in 2010-2011 and was happy to get back on the ice in the red, white and blue.
“It was good to be out there again,” Halpern said. “It’s a well coached team and it makes it an easy game to play.”
After coming up short in Pittsburgh, the team traveled to Boston to take on their division rivals. This game was much more back and forth, with both teams blowing two goal leads. In the end, it was Brendan Gallagher in the sixth round of the shootout that sealed the win for the Habs.
“We were getting the loose pucks, we were winning those 50/50 pucks and finding ways to create chances and I thought that was big for us and when you get down two goals twice and come back two goals,” Gallagher said. “You have a lot of character in this group. It’s great to see it and it’s a lot of fun.”
Michael Ryder was the star for the Habs in this game, picking up two goals against the team he won the Stanley Cup with in 2011.
“It’s pretty good. It feels good, but I’m just happy that we got the win,” Ryder said. “We came out, started off the game hard, got the lead, and then in the second, Boston turned it around on us and got the momentum back. In the third, we knew we had to change it up a bit, and start getting back to our game, getting pucks deep and skating. That’s when we’re at our best.”
After giving up four straight goals in the second period, Price was pulled for Peter Budaj, who earned the win by stopping six shootout attempts from the Bruins. He is now 2-0 versus Boston this season.
“We just got the message that even though they were down 4-2, it’s back-to-back nights. We don’t have a game tomorrow and nothing to save it for, just keep battling back,” Budaj said. “It’s only two shots away. You never know in hockey.”
The Habs journey to the top got a little bit harder early Thursday morning when it was announced that Pittsburgh was acquiring Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames. Once everyone is healthy, Pittsburgh is suddenly the easy favourite for the Stanley Cup, but if Montreal continues to play their strong team game, they may still be able to challenge Crosby and Co.
Montreal now heads home for two nights off before they welcome the New York Rangers into town on Saturday night.