The Montreal Canadiens missed Andrei Markov's leadership when he went down with a severed tendon in his foot on opening night. The Habs' assistant captain also brought his considerable skills with him when he returned to the lineup on Saturday night.
Markov celebrated his return with a pair of power-play goals as the Canadiens delighted a host of their fans who made the trip to the snowbound Nassau Coliseum with a 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders.
"He's an All-Star defenseman that has great vision and moves the puck well," coach Jacques Martin said. "It's nice to get a top player back. Those guys are hard to replace. His execution was really outstanding."
Markov's return from a severed tendon in his foot stole some of the spotlight from Jaroslav Halak, who stopped all 40 shots he faced as the Canadiens opened a seven-game road trip by ending a five-game losing streak. Halak has allowed only seven goals in six career starts against the Islanders.
It was the Canadiens' first shutout at the Coliseum since Jan. 2, 2001 - a night Jose Theodore capped his 3-0 victory by scoring a goal.
Markov scored once in each of the first two periods. Glen Metropolit added another power-play goal in the third period as the Canadiens went 3-for-5 with the extra man.
The Islanders lost for the third time in four games this week. They've dropped six of their last eight and all lost three against Montreal this season - each time to Halak.
New York went 0-for-6 on the power play.
"We need to tweak things to make our power play and penalty killing a momentum-builder, as it should be," said goaltender Martin Biron, who made 25 saves.
The announced crowd at the Coliseum was 7,842 - a total held down by a blizzard that swept across Long Island during the day. A sizeable percentage was made up of more than 20 buses of Habs fans who made the trip from Montreal before the snow began to fall. They spent the night yelling "Go Habs Go" and drowning out the local fans who braved the storm.
"Our fans were like a sixth player on the ice," Halak said.
Markov, playing his first game since being injured on Oct. 1, needed little time to make an impact. He put the Canadiens on the board 7:44 into the game when he jammed in a power-play rebound in the crease after Martin Biron had stopped Tomas Plekanec's shot but had the puck trickle through his pads.
The Canadiens got another power play when Andy McDonald was called for hooking at 11:50, but the Islanders had the best chances - Halak had to stop Richard Park on a breakaway and turned aside Nate Thompson on a wide-open 15-foot wrister from the slot after a giveaway. He finished the period with 14 saves, many on excellent chances.
"I wasn't giving up many rebounds tonight," Halak said. "We were great on the penalty killing blocking the shots. That helped a lot."
Markov made it 2-0 at 13:12 of the second period, as the Canadiens again capitalized on the Islanders' inability to kill penalties. With a virtual 5-on-3 advantage because Thompson was on the ice unable to move after blocking a shot, Markov took Marc-Andre Bergeron's pass at the left point, eased a couple of steps closer to the net and picked the top right corner from 25 feet.
It was his fourth career two-goal game - and the sixth time in 10 games the Islanders had allowed two or more power-play goals.
"Obviously, they were real ahead of us in special teams," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "It's not so much bad penalties as much as it executive of power play and penalty kill. Right now everything is going against us."
Halak kept the Isles off the board in the final minute of the second period, robbing Matt Moulson from point-blank range during a power play and then denying John Tavares' tip-in try. He was also sharp early in the third period when the Islanders had a four-minute power play, denying Josh Bailey's stuff attempt and a screened shot from the left circle by Jack Hillen among the six shots he faced.
Metropolit's stuff past Biron with six minutes left continued the Islanders' problems on the penalty kill - they've allowed 16 goals on 36 tries over the last 10 games. Biron prevented a fourth power-play goal with 3:25 remaining when he made an acrobatic stop on Plekanec.
Biron is winless in his last six starts and has not posted a victory since Nov. 13 against Carolina.
"I appreciate all the guys are doing but in the end it's more than getting a win for me," Biron said. "It's about getting wins for the team and going in the right direction. It isn't coming easy right now."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
|PPG - Andrei Markov (1) ASST: Tomas Plekanec (29), Andrei Kostitsyn (12)|
1 - 0 MTL
|PPG - Andrei Markov (2) ASST: Marc-Andre Bergeron (10), Tomas Plekanec (30)|
2 - 0 MTL
|PPG - Glen Metropolit (8) ASST: Scott Gomez (14), Max Pacioretty (9)|
3 - 0 MTL
|Jack Hillen Holding against Glen Metropolit|
|Andrew MacDonald Hooking against Scott Gomez|
|Tomas Plekanec Interference against Richard Park|
|Tomas Plekanec Holding against Kyle Okposo|
|Mark Streit Slashing against Matt D'Agostini|
|Tomas Plekanec Tripping against Andrew MacDonald|
|Travis Moen Hi stick - double minor against Josh Bailey|
|Jesse Joensuu Roughing against Glen Metropolit|
|Glen Metropolit Interference against Jesse Joensuu|
|Rob Schremp Hooking against Travis Moen|
|Jack Hillen Tripping against Sergei Kostitsyn|
|Maxim Lapierre Holding the stick against Richard Park|