Monday, 28 December 2015

Game 38: Canadiens 4, Lightning 3 (SO)

A game that was in turn a soothing balm on a Canadiens fan sick and tired of this losing streak, and then a kick in the guts when the Lightning took the lead after scoring twice in 21 seconds in the third, finished as a possible turning point in the season, and in preparation for a meeting with the Bruins on January 1.  The Canadiens needed a shootout to get it done, but they beat the Lightning 4-3 to put a stop to the mob clamour.  For now.  Possibly.

The RDS play-by-play team opined during the game that the acquisition of Ben Scrivens might have given backup goalie Mike Condon a source of motivation, might have put on a little pressure on him to perform.  That may be, but I'm thinking the other way, that it actually removed some pressure, gave the kid a bit of confidence, that he won't have to carry the load all by himself, or with another youngster in Dustin Tokarski.  Maybe having Ben Scrivens next to him in the dressing room, a guy who's seen it rain, will calm the kid and make it easier to focus on the job at hand.

He let in some groaners again tonight, but he got the job done.  He stopped 36 out of 39 shots, and for the second game in a row put up a save percentage above .900, after roughly a dozen games under that benchmark.  He battled, fought hard, made some key saves.  He wasn't perfect, but neither were his teammates.  And he can rest easy now, knowing that a veteran will take the crease against the Panthers, and he can have a day off and not be on the edge of his seat, trepidating that he'll have to sub in during the game.

The veterans stood up and were counted tonight, after being AWOL for a few games.  Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, and Tomas Plekanec all got on the scoresheet.  Max got the game-winning goal in the shootout.  There were a few stumbles, a few glaring giveaways, but this was a step in the right direction.

Three situations were reviewed by the game officials.  The first, on a goal by Ryan Callahan to make it 3-2 for Tampa, looked at whether Jonathan Marchessault interfered with Mike Condon.  I thought it was clear that he did, effectively shoving him to one side and preventing him from sliding to his left to make a save.  The Toronto bias against the Habs struck again, and the goal was declared valid.

The second was a play on which Dale Weise had clearly scored but the officials hadn't seen it.  Play went on, the broadcast went to commercials, and we came back to the review and the replays that showed the puck over the line before Ben Bishop's pad shoved it out.

Jon Cooper immediately asked for a review on whether Dale had interfered with the goalie.  The Canadiens forward had made contact with the Lightning keeper's stick, but he had been pushed in the back by Anton Stralman, and the officials let it stand, to my surprise.

We talked about how the Canadiens were often dominating in the shots and/or possession departments but losing games during this streak, and how they had to find a way to win, so we'll allow them this one without looking for too many warts.  The minutiae would give us many reasons to nitpick, but we'll sharpen the knives another day.

It wouldn't do however to not mention the good showing of the Greg Pateryn and Mark Barberio, who played his first game as a Canadien.  They both contributed according to their talent, their expected player profile.  Greg was stout, dependable, and tough, and Mark Barberio was imaginative, free-wheeling with the puck and surgical with his passes, springing Paul Byron loose on a breakaway, even though he was closely checked by the two Tampa Bay defencemen.  His pass was that accurate.

So we're on to Sunrise tomorrow, to play the Panthers, and gather momentum.

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