NEW YORK – Last spring’s Montreal-New York playoff series may have ended 245 days ago, but don’t tell that to the Canadiens or Rangers.
Snow still lined the streets in downtown Manhattan following a short-lived late-January blizzard, but inside Madison Square Garden, any puck purist could have sworn spring hockey was being played.
“That was a playoff game. We were grinding. We put pucks in deep and they did the same. We play a very similar game to them – definitely fast paced – but tight-checking as well,” noted Max Pacioretty, whose lone marker late in the third turned out to be the game-winner between two teams who frankly were not very fond of one another. “We liked the way we played, so we’ve got to build off of that now and keep going.”
After making his mark with Montreal during the playoffs with seven postseason points a year ago, the vibe at MSG was a familiar one for Dale Weise.
“I think these are two teams who are really starting to dislike each other, starting from last year in the playoffs and continuing to a couple of games this year,” described the crafty forward, who finished the game with four shots on goal as well as an assist, not to mention a scoring chance which needed to be reviewed by the NHL command center in Toronto before finally being disallowed. “But those are the kinds of games we like to play. I think they let our true character show, and I really liked the contributions from everyone tonight.”
Despite the hostile environment which saw 26 minutes worth of penalties dished out in the opening frame alone, there was in fact lots to like on Thursday, starting not just with Carey Price, but also those in front of him.
While the 27-year-old netminder turned in another All-Star performance to preserve the win after Pacioretty broke the deadlock, the Canadiens also allowed just 24 shots on goal to a Rangers team which entered the game averaging the fourth-most in the league.
“The guys played very well tonight,” praised Price of his lighter-than-usual workload, after previously turning aside 76 of 79 shots over his last two starts. “We also got pretty lucky out there a few times, and that’s just part of the game.”
Which is why following what turned out to be a goaltenders’ duel to the finish between two of the very best in the world, Price was nevertheless quick to credit the work of each of his teammates on the ice.
“Those are the types of games you want to be able to win as a team,” continued the Canadiens’ All-Star, who has now racked up 26 wins in just 38 starts this season. “It’s fun to win a game 6-5, but if we want to be successful, we’ve got to be able to bear down on those low-scoring, tight-checking games, and tonight we were the team that got the two points.”
Although Thursday’s win didn’t quite erase the memories of last year’s Game 6 elimination at the historic New York arena, it did prove that the Habs can now not only beat anyone, but also anywhere
“We haven’t had as much success in this building as we would have liked, so it was important for us to come in here and play a good road game. Last time we came here they outplayed us big time and we obviously didn’t like our result in the playoffs either,” admitted Pacioretty after snapping his team’s three game slide at MSG to pick up just a sixth win in the Big Apple since February 27, 2007. “But we felt pretty good tonight and we’ll use that to our advantage the next time we’re here.”
Which may just be in April for real.Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com
The Numbers Game - January 29, 2015
Making it four
Shake it off