The Canadiens overcame a pesky Florida Panthers team to win 2-1 and make us not quite so testy about things.
And although the boys scored only twice, if they could have figured out Tim Thomas a bit better, it might even have been a lopsided deal. Because the chances were definitely there.
Montreal outshot the Panthers 13-5 in the first period, swarming the Florida net constantly, coming in in waves, looking like a million bucks. And all was right with the world when David Desharnais found the back of the net after first fanning, and then relying on his back hand to get the job done.
They were playing well. Another small yet fine step after a dismal November, added to a better first few games of December.
But things changed when Florida tied it up late in the frame, and suddenly the jump, the coming in in waves, suddenly calmed down and the visitors picked things up a notch. One goal and Montreal’s first period vim and vigour went out the window somewhat.
Was it a sign of an unsure or fragile team, when the foot is suddenly off the pedal like that? Or orders from the guy behind the bench, telling them to never mind the fancy stuff and tighten up?
Tomas Plekanec was flying on this night, both ways, showing the offensive and defensive skill throughout. Pleks will make a fine captain of the Czech Republic squad. A quiet guy leading by example.
And because Pleks was motoring, his linemates Brian Gionta and Daniel Briere found themselves with jump and opportunities, and it was Gionta who would notch the winner late in the second.
It was a swell two points, even with Andrei Markov and partner Alexei Emelin being on the ice for the Panthers marker, making it another night, especially for Emelin, of being in the minus column.
Markov struggled more than normal, best illustrated, for me at least, when a Panther player simply slid the puck through Markov’s open legs and the biscuit ended up in the back of the net.
Not the kind of play expected from a wily veteran.
And Emelin has been spending a lot of time getting confused instead of rattling bones and making the smart, quick play. But he’ll rebound. Hopefully before spring.
At least it was two big points against a team who had previously handed our boys a couple of dismal defeats. And although the original swarming of the net subsided after the first, the team still managed to get lots of chances, outshooting Florida 12-6 in the second before being outshot 16-10 in the third.
Carey Price kept them in it, Thomas at the other end did too, and the low scoring affair was still a win for the good guys, no matter how you slice it.
Final shots on net Montreal 35, Florida 27. Great to see lots of shots by the home team.
Rene Bourque found himself in close with chances as well, and seemed to have some zip to his game. What an important guy Bourque could be if he came to play every night. He’s got the tools, but the tools seem mostly rusty or seized up.
Three times it seemed we were about to lose key guys, with Brendan Gallagher, Brandon Prust, and PK Subban all experiencing some sort of injury that thankfully didn’t keep them out of the game. Imagine if PK was seriously hurt on the eve of the Olympic roster decision.
And imagine a Montreal Canadiens team without P.K. for a long period of time. Whew.
Next up – Wednesday, with the guys in Philadelphia. No sense in saying the obvious about how a win is a must.