Montreal 2 San Jose 3 (HP Pavilion)
posted by Rocket
The Shark Tank has proven to be an inhospitable place for the Canadiens, who haven't won in San Jose since Nov. 23, 1999.
However, the Sharks came into the game with two consecutive regulation losses, a season-high streak. San Jose's coach Todd McLellan was very critical of his team's effort Tuesday night against New Jersey and had challenged them to get more shots on goal.
The Sharks fired everything they had at Carey Price and after two periods trailed the Canadiens 2-1 despite outshooting them 29 to 19. San Jose had excellent scoring chances, but the play of Price was simply sensational. The Canadiens were riding the brilliance of their goaltender, who made many highlight-reel saves.
The Sharks were showing signs of frustration. Play became chippy. The Habs were gaining confidence and moved to the third period with a record of 19-1-0 when leading after two periods.
“It’s very good for our preparation for the playoffs,” Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. “You’re going to play in one of those games where the goalie is making big save, save after save. You can possibly get a little frustrated, which is easy to do.”
Then early in the third period, after Scott Nichol hit the post, he was driven into the boards from behind by Max Lapierre. It was a dirty and potentially dangerous hit by Lapierre. Although the play went unpenalized, expect it to be reviewed by the NHL's Colin Campbell for possible supplementary discipline. Nichol did not return to the game.
The Sharks' outrage was amplified as Lapierre sat laughing about the incident on the Canadiens bench. San Jose's frustration was replaced by determination. The team had a rallying point.
"It was an Eastern Conference team so you don't really expect that," Boyle said. "They're fighting for their playoff lives and we're fighting to get our game back on track. It was a chippy game out there. Sometimes it's good for the team to rally around that and get together. It was a very weird game, a lot of weird things happened out there but we stuck together and won the game."
The Canadiens were on their heels for a good portion of the third period. Price continued to keep his team in the game, including getting the better of Boyle on a penalty shot.
The Habs' old nemesis, referee Chris Lee, was determined to grab some headlines with his usual brand of officiating. A weak call on Roman Hamrlik was all that was needed with San Jose getting a power-play goal from Dany Heatley to tie the game.
Two-and-a-half minutes later the Sharks took the lead for good with the Canadiens running around in their own end. The Sharks took some satisfaction, victimizing Lapierre on the winning goal.
While Price made 37 saves, the Sharks directed a whopping 85 shots on net. Hal Gill, Hamrlik, and Jaroslav Spacek combined for 13 of the 26 blocked shots by Canadiens.
The Canadiens spent a good deal of the time trying to retrieve the puck with their six centers in the lineup recording a dreadful 31 percent at the faceoff dot.
Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta had strong games for the Habs, each getting a goal and an assist.
"We had a chance to take two points," said Gomez. "Carey held us in there and they just got one by there at the end. We know we can play with anyone. That's a great team over there."
San Jose, the "great team," is in second place in the league after tonight's game. While the 23rd-place team kept the game close, they spoiled a gem of a performance by their goaltender.
The Canadiens continue their road trip with a visit to Los Angeles for a game against the Kings on Saturday night.
Rocket's three stars
1. Carey Price
2. Dany Heatley
3. Patrick Marleau
Honorable mention: Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez
Player quotes from wire services were used in this report.
(photo credit: Getty)