Montreal - October 18, 2013 - Now that's entertainment.
It was the first Montreal visit by the Columbus Blue Jackets since December 6, 2011. Maybe they can come back more often?
•P.K. Subban. What does he do for an encore? There are only 75 games left.
•Andrei Markov. Completely rejuvenated since being paired with Subban following the loss in Calgary. In the four games since Markov is 1-2-3 +5 while his ice time has dropped from over 27:00 to a more reasonable 23-24 minutes.
•Carey Price. Sensational saves at key times, including a game saver with his left pad ("I got lucky on that one") mere seconds before the Habs clinched it with an empty netter.
•Tomas Plekanec. As smart a move as you'll see a NHL forward make, especially considering the circumstance - a 3-3 tie with just over a minute to play. Using Brandon Prust as a decoy, Plekanec fired the puck along the ice past a surprised Sergei Bobrovsky who was clearly setting up for a shot from the left side. Plekanec looked lethargic at times through the first six games of the season. But not in this one as he led all skaters with seven shots on goal. Only downside was winning just 43% of his face offs although he did win 5 of 9 in the final period.
•Brian Gionta. If not for Bobrovsky, especially early, the captain might have scored a hat trick. Good to see him skating so well. And smiling on the bench at one point with his team up 3-0.
•Brandon Prust. Outstanding performance in over 18:00 of ice time, the most he's played since taking on his former team - the Rangers - last February. Did most of the work on the Markov shorthanded goal. Finished +3.
•Michael Bournival. Very impressive. Again. Will never forget his 1st NHL goal - at the Bell Centre against the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Was a force almost every time he was on the ice with five shots on goal in just over 10:00. Also blocked a couple of shots.
•Raphael Diaz & Josh Gorges. Another solid performance by Habs #2 pair of defenseman. Combined to block eight shots - or half the team total.
•Francis Bouillon. A win on his 38th birthday.
•Rene Bourque. Opened the scoring on a breakaway after being a doubtful starter with the flu. Recovered quickly after donning Pat Hickey's overcoat.
•The news on Max Pacioretty.
•St. Hyacinthe native David Savard. The Columbus defenseman picked up an assist in his first NHL game in Montreal.
•David Desharnais & Daniel Briere. Michel Therrien must have figured that both were about to get on a roll after finishing the road trip on a bit of an offensive high. But they were nowhere in this one, combining for one shot on goal. Non-factors against a team with several big D men. They are going to have to produce on the power play. And quickly.
•Canadiens PK unit. Burned a couple of more times. Can't blame the goalie. Efficiency rate is about 80%. Is it schematics?
•Habs blew 3-0 lead on home ice. And even before they did they needed a number of big saves from their goaltender to bail them out. Way too leaky inside their own zone, especially against a team that was missing Marian Gaborik, Nick Foligno and Nathan Horton.
•Lars Eller. Not really a bad game but a bad moment. Therrien blamed Subban for pinching deep and getting caught up the ice as Columbus scored it's second goal. There is some merit to the belief that an offensive defenseman should better pick his spots to be aggressive - and a two goal lead late in the second period is not one of those times. But Subban's position on the blue line was ably filled by Eller who badly misplayed Ryan Johansen's break out. And nobody knew that more than Eller who angrily swung his stick at the Habs net after Johansen beat Price with a perfect shot.
•Referees Francois St. Laurent and Ghislain Hebert. St. Laurent missed an obvious high stick to Brendan Gallagher who had to get repairs on a bleeding mouth. It was early so maybe St. Laurent missed his wake up call. And Hebert's elbowing penalty on Subban early in the second period was a laugher. Subban, as almost everybody around the NHL with the possible exception of Hebert knows, has all but perfected the ability to close down the left wing boards for opponents silly enough to try to beat him. The fact that he can move so well while skating backwards and deliver forwards into the glass with such force while (mostly) keeping his stick down and his right elbow tucked in, makes it all the more impressive. And lethal. Hebert committed a sin for an official - he guessed. Even though Markov's goal came with Subban in the box, Columbus eventually did score on the power play to help get them back in the game. I can hear Knuckles Nilan right about now - "Hee-Haw!" "Hee-Haw!"