TAMPA – Mike Condon had a milestone night in Tampa.
Facing a team with the potential to crack the 100-point benchmark down the stretch, the Habs knew they wouldn’t be in for an easy night against the Lightning. Despite sitting on the outside of the playoff picture looking in and icing a lineup consisting of seven NHL rookies and just eight players who were on the ice for the team on opening night, the Canadiens stormed into Florida and came away with a 3-0 win.
While the Habs were able to light the lamp three times against the league’s fourth-stingiest team, it was their work at the other end of the ice that sealed the Canadiens’ third win in the last five games. Earning his first career NHL shutout with a 26-save performance in Tampa, Mike Condon crossed another item off his rookie year To Do list in Tampa.
“It’s a special feeling. It took me 48 tries, but better late than never,” joked the 25-year-old netminder, who also registered his 20th win of the campaign on Thursday night. “I’m very happy it got done, but I’m happier about the win. Two in a row. I haven’t done that in a while, so it feels pretty good.”
Forced to play with just five defensemen after Nathan Beaulieu suffered a season-ending broken thumb in the first period, the team’s blue-liners didn’t slow down in their efforts to help Condon earn his first big league whitewash. In addition to chipping in on offense, with Alexei Emelin and Greg Pateryn picking up a combined three assists, the rearguards were even more impressive in their own end, not allowing a single shot on goal in the final 12:28 of action – something that didn’t go unnoticed by the first-year netminder.
“They played five D when Beau got hurt and four when Dieter [Darren Dietz] got in that fight,” mentioned Condon, who was asked if he planned on buying his blue-liners dinner as a thank you. “At the end of the year, I think that’s something all goalies should do, take their D out for dinner, much like quarterbacks take their linemen out for dinner. I owe those guys everything. They’re sacrificing their bodies and blocking shots wearing a lot less equipment than I do. They’re very tough.”
Condon may be a little too quick to deflect all the credit for his first shutout. Not only did he shut down one of the NHL’s leading snipers in Steven Stamkos, who had four shots on the night, he also stoned Ondrej Palat on a second-period penalty shot attempt to maintain a two-goal lead heading into the final frame.
“Scoring chances weren’t that high compared to most nights. There was that penalty shot there, but the guys kept most shots to the outside and cleared out the rebounds,” countered Condon. “There were only two or three of those [high quality scoring chances] if I remember well. That’s a manageable night in the NHL.
“I just like winning. I think most goalies and most players like winning; it’s not about the personal accomplishments,” he stressed. “Sometimes you happen to get a shutout, but it was a huge win and I’m just happy to get the 20th.”Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
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