Montreal 3 New Jersey 1 (Prudential Center)
posted by Rocket
Imagine for a minute a Canadiens' game, where special teams weren't a factor, goaltending didn't have to be exceptional, and the team almost played a solid 60 minute game. Prior to tonight, you would be hard-pressed to provide an example. But the Habs played just that kind of game for their first regular season win in New Jersey on a Friday night since October 13, 1989.
At times, it wasn't a pretty game to watch. Both teams started rather slowly and played a sloppy brand of hockey. The second period was a snooze-fest with the two teams combining for only 11 shots on goal. And in the third period, the Canadiens played very cautiously going into full lock-down mode.
The Habs' power-play was shut-out once again and is now zero for its last 23 chances.
Coach Jacques Martin was busy mixing and matching his lines and shortening his bench. Four forwards, Matt D'Agostini, Mathieu Darche, Max Pacioretty, and Marc-Andre Bergeron, each had less than ten minutes of ice time. Darche made efficient use of his 9:49.
Against St. Louis, Darche often looked out of place and admitted that he wasn't comfortable with the system. Tonight, Darche looked out of place because he was playing Bulldogs hockey, not the familiar Canadiens system. He forechecked aggressively, created turnovers, and drove to the net. For that he was rewarded with a goal and an assist.
While Scott Gomez heard the jeers of the New Jersey fans, Brian Gionta seemed to enjoy a silent respect. Gionta had a very good game with six shots, three takeaways and an assist.
The three goal scorers for the Canadiens tonight were Darche, Benoit Pouliot and Mike Cammalleri. All are new additions to the team suggesting that General Manager Bob Gainey deserves credit for moves that he has made.
New Jersey had a record of 21-3 when scoring first coming into tonight's game. While the Canadiens allowed the first goal, Pouliot's marker with just over three minutes left in the first period was an important confidence builder for the team. The Habs also benefited from playing a team's whose passive system is similar and provides a good match-up.
Goaltending was competent but not a focus tonight. Martin Brodeur uncharacteristically gave up three goals to the Canadiens and looked awkward on several saves. Jaroslav Halak gave up far too many rebounds and was an adventure each time he played the puck but made key saves when necessary.
"I'm not sure we tested Halak too much," Zach Parise said. "He made some good saves, but I still think we could have made it a little harder for him."
The Canadiens defensive corps did an excellent job limiting quality scoring chances, particularly Josh Gorges, Jaroslav Halak, Roman Hamrlik, and Andrei Markov. Gorges had one of his better games of the year leading the team in hits and blocked shots with four each.
The Habs return home to play the Rangers on Saturday night.
Rocket's three stars
1. Mathieu Darche
2. Jamie Langenbrunner
3. Brian Gionta
Material from wire services was used in this report.
(photo credit: Getty)