When Don Cherry trashes a Canadian for a hit on a Finn …
Michael Del Zotto had it coming.
Late in a 2-2 game, the Vancouver defenceman – for reasons best known to himself and perhaps to Cherry – decided to rough up Jesperi Kotkaniemei along the boards.
Off to the box Del Zotto went.
And eight seconds later, past Jacob Markstrom and into the Vancouver net went Jonathan Drouin’s point shot to secure a Canadiens win and a successful western Canada road trip.
Might have been the Pacific ocean air, but the Canadiens looked much better in Vancouver than they did in Alberta.
And Carey Price was as sharp as he had been to steal a win Thursday night in Calgary.
Although the home team had 37 shots, the Canadiens’ defence played a stronger game in front of Price than they had against the Flames.
Once again, Jeff Petry played insane minutes: 27:49. And his supporting cast was solid – particularly the pairing of Noah Juulsen and David Schlemko.
The D situation is going to get interesting when Shea Weber returns – which is likely to be sooner than mid-December.
With Price rounding into form and the D solidifying …
Well, don’t pick out your downtown Montreal spot for the Stanley Cup parade just yet.
But do expect this fast, exciting and gutsy team to perhaps sustain us through the misery of a Montreal winter.
The fourth line was unexceptional again, but the other three trios had their moments in Vancouver.
Tomas Tatar continues to bounce back brilliantly from an unhappy stint with Vegas. He opened the game’s scoring, and Tatar’s energy and smarts are a nice complement to Brendan Gallagher’s grit and Phillip Danault’s evolving O-zone game.
The Max Domi line had a slow start in Van but improved as the game progressed. Andrew Shaw has been a brilliant addition, bringing net-banging grit and – thus far – no dumb penalties.
The Kotkaniemi line is finding its way. Artturi Lehkonen took an uncharacteristic bad penalty but played his customary smart 200-foot game. Kenny Agostino continues to be an adequate placeholder for Joel Armia.
The game’s most mind-blowing stat?
Bo Horvat took 34 faceoffs and won 23 of them.
The Canadiens are the league’s worst face-off team, and it’s going to cost them. They ought hire Yanic Perreault to run a draw clinic.
The Canadiens return home to face the defending Stanley Cup champions – who currently sit OUTSIDE a playoff berth!! – Monday night at the Bell Centre.