Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Game of the Night: Columbus at Montreal


Welcome to the first of what hopes to be a semi-regular feature, where I keep tabs on a random game on the NHL schedule and provide some thoughts and analysis on a non-Minnesota/Pittsburgh game. Tuesday's game of choice, well, there wasn't a choice, as Columbus and Montreal were the only teams in action.

Tuesday's game was one example of "That's why you play 60 minutes."

Both Montreal and Columbus need to learn that, but after Tuesday night, the Blue Jackets need to hit the books more.

A slow start and a soft goal allowed by Mathieu Garon to Montreal's Mike Cammalleri gave the Canadiens a 1-0 lead, but even with that, the Blue Jackets controlled the first 35 minutes or so. A quick goal from Antoine Vermette just 46 seconds after Cammalleri's tied the score, and in another 1:26, Columbus took the lead on Anton Stralman's power play marker.

The Blue Jackets continued to pepper Carey Price. He stood as tall as he could, and Columbus helped out by missing the net on a few occasions. Price would've been justified in calling 9-1-1 - or the French-Canadian equivalent - and reporting a missing hockey team.

Even after Marc-Andre Bergeron's innocent-looking wrister from the point eluded Garon for a 2-2 score, Montreal's attack still looked fairly lifeless. The goal, at 9:30 of the second period, was just Montreal's second shot on goal in the period.

Another quick answer from Vermette on the power play after Travis Moen took a retaliatory roughing penalty restored Columbus' advantage at 3-2. The momentum didn't last very long. Shortly after Vermette's goal, Jared Boll was sent off for tripping and though the Canadiens didn't score on the man-advantage, they wrested control of the game, getting numerous chances to score late.

They continued to press in the third period - aided by spending the first 1:56 on another power play - and were rewarded 2:18 into the period. Roman Hamrlik hit the cross bar shortly after the power play ended and Glen Metropolit banged home the rebound for a 3-3 score. Less than three minutes later, Bergeron took a pass from Ryan White and blasted it past a sprawled Garon.

Columbus recovered a little and tested Price on several occasions. But a near-miss by the visitors allowed the hometown Habs to salt the game away. Montreal survived a scare close to its goal by Columbus and earned a 2-on-1 going the other direction with Maxim Lapierre and Sergei Kostitsyn. Lapierre took a short pass from Kostitsyn at the blue line, skated in on Garon, waited him out, and wristed a shot into the back of the cage for a 5-3 lead with 4:35 remaining and Montreal's third-straight goal.

Once the scoreboard showed 5-3, that was essentially the end of the game. Columbus failed to mount much of an attack in the waning moments.

Montreal will be happy to get the two points. Jacques Martin might have something to say about how the team played for the first 35 minutes, but the Canadiens were the better team over the final 25, and that was enough for the win. Martin needs to tighten up his defense though. For the third straight game, and sixth time in nine, Montreal was out-shot. In six of those games, the Canadiens have allowed at least 32 shots on goal. They're relying a little too much on Price.

The Blue Jackets fall to 12-8-3 and remain in third place in the Central Division and eighth in the Western Conference. The Habs improve to 12-11-1, remain fourth in the Northeast Division but climb to 10th in the East.

Scoring summary
1. MTL - Mike Cammalleri, 12 (Andrei Kostitsyn, Tomas Plekanec) 5:50 1st
2. CLB - Antoine Vermette, 5 (Rick Nash, Anton Stralman) 6:36 1st
3. CLB - Stralman, 4 (Nash, Fedor Tyutin) PPG 8:12 1st
4. MTL - Marc-Andre Bergeron, 4 (Josh Gorges, Plekanec) 9:30 2nd
5. CLB - Vermette, 6 (Raffi Torres, Derrick Brassard) PPG 11:46 2nd
6. MTL - Glen Metropolit, 5 (Roman Hamrlik, Max Pacioretty) 2:18 3rd
7. MTL - Bergeron, 5 (Ryan White) 4:56 3rd
8. MTL - Maxim Lapierre, 2 (Sergei Kostitsyn) 15:25 3rd

Three Stars
3. Vermette (2 goals)
2. Bergeron (2 goals, GWG)
1. Price (33 saves)

Non-Star: Plekanec, two assists, 14 faceoff wins.

Quote of the night
"We did not manage the game -- that's the story of our season. We had a game well in control, we played two perfect periods, and then we didn't manage the damn game."
Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock, not a happy man

Marquee matchup for Wednesday (14 games)
Chicago (15-5-2) at San Jose (16-5-4), 10:30 p.m. ET. Marian Hossa expected to make his debut for the Blackhawks. Assuming he plays, he faces Dany Heatley. The two were traded for each other in August of 2005.

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