MONTREAL -- It takes more than one player to fill in for the NHL's reigning MVP. Luckily the Habs don’t mind sharing.
Less than nine hours after learning that All-Star netminder Carey Price would be sidelined for a full week of action with a lower body injury, the Canadiens filed an All-Star effort of their own, collectively, dominating the Winnipeg Jets 5-1 at the Bell Centre.
“I couldn’t have asked for more. I thought we played a flawless game,” dished head coach Michel Therrien, whose team opened the scoring on their second shot of the night and never looked back. “The first game back following a long western road trip can often be tough, and I’ll admit I had some concerns heading into tonight, but the players responded in the best way possible.”
Even though he wasn’t playing, reminders of Price’s excellence were hard to ignore as the 28-year-old goaltender -- in suit and tie rather than jersey and pads -- was presented with the Molson Cup for the month of October during a pregame ceremony. Nevertheless, the team took his absence in stride.
“This team’s identity doesn’t change depending on who is in goal,” stressed Therrien, also saw Dustin Tokarski called up from St. John’s on Sunday morning for backup support. “We use our speed to our advantage, and put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses. We take pride in being a tough team to play against.”
Indeed, you could argue that nothing did in fact change on Sunday. As the first team to score 50 goals this season -- 10 more than second-place Dallas in that category -- scoring another five may have just been business as usual for this high-flying edition of the Habs.
And that’s just fine with Mike Condon.
“No goalie is going to complain about their team scoring goals,” cracked the 25-year-old netminder following his fourth win in as many career NHL starts, a span over which the Habs have found the back of the net 21 times. “We played well defensively, that translated into offense, and I’ve been very fortunate for that.”
Despite being buoyed by another offensive outing, Condon has reason to credit the defense, which kept his workload light by allowing just 19 shots through on Sunday.
“There weren’t many scoring chances tonight,” acknowledged the first-year Hab. “The guys won a lot of faceoffs in the zone and blocked a lot of shots even when we were up by five goals. It was nice to see.”
Still, Condon did have a number of tough saves to make on the night, including one on which he looked like he was channeling his inner Price, diving forward to smother the puck in front of Nikolaj Ehlers.
“Sometimes there are breakdowns and it’s my job to be there. You’re supposed to make the saves that you can, and some that you shouldn’t. I was very fortunate tonight,” underlined the Needham, MA native. “I’m not going to try to be Carey, I don’t think anybody can. I’m just going to try to keep the spot warm for him.”
As of Friday, every active forward had already scored at least once this season, and the Habs kept all four lines rolling once again on Sunday, this time picking up goals from Paul Byron, Tomas Fleischmann (2), David Desharnais, and Lars Eller.
Following a week that began with a pair of disappointing losses in Vancouver and Edmonton, the Habs which started the season with nine consecutive wins have now won five in a row at home for the first time since 1979-80.
“I think Edmonton was the exception, for whatever reason,” concluded Dale Weise, who earned an assist on Fleischmann’s second-period tally. “Tonight felt good, just like in Calgary. It was a complete team effort, and everybody chipped in. As cliché as it sounds, we played a full 60 minutes, weathered the storm early, killed all those penalties, and played well until the final buzzer.” - Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com
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