Finally, with time expiring, Subban gathered a pass from Andrei Markov – who had drawn a hooking penalty on Kyle Turris with 1:48 to play – and then did a very un-Subban thing: rather than rip a slapper on net, he made a gorgeous diagonal pass to an open Desharnais, who managed to beat the horn.
“Everything’s going fast, I had a brief opportunity when the puck was in the corner to look up at the clock and see how much time we’ve got, we got the puck back to Marky, he moved it to me, and I know everybody including their goaltender was expecting me to shoot there. So, I knew we had maybe a couple of seconds left, maybe one or two, I didn’t know where it was exactly, but give Davey credit, man, as much as I’ve got to find him there, he’s got to bury it, he’s got a guy diving, the goalie diving, it’s not an easy goal,” Subban said. “Some people might say we didn’t deserve to win that game, but the way we executed in the last five minutes, I’d say we did.”
As the Habs celebrated, Desharnais and Subban whiffed on an attempted embrace, leading Subban to laugh afterward “I tried to jump him and he dodged me pretty quick.”
They escaped with an improbable win to keep their noses ahead of the pursuing Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings, but if the Habs needed any more evidence that a power play that is still just 18-for-131 since Dec. 3 (that’s a 13.1 efficiency rate, which is about how Vancouver’s 27-ranked power-play unit ticks over) needs to improve, they got it on this night.
Oh, and about that Montreal goalie, who was playing his first game since a post-Olympic injury layoff.
The first shot he faced went in, but that was hardly Price’s fault.
Allowing Spezza to waltz into the slot and fire a BB top shelf isn’t recommended.
“It’s obviously my first game in two-and-a-half weeks or whatever, it would have been nice to get some more rubber as opposed to a Spezza slapshot, but it’s a really gratifying feeling to get the two points,” said Price, who didn’t travel with the team to Buffalo for Sunday’s date with the Sabres, he’ll get an extra day of rest.
The first breakaway the Team Canada goalie faced in his return from injury didn’t go in – well it did, but the goal was called back after Colin Greening knocked the net off its moorings and barrelled into Price in the second period.
The first time the Montreal Canadiens goalie got bowled over – in the first period, by Ales Hemsky – he got up without incident.
And while the 26-year-old spent a lot of time during stoppages stretching, but that’s not overly unusual (the nature of the injury that kept him out for eight games remains unclear, although it’s been reported he has knee tendinitis) for the Montreal netminder.
The second breakaway, when Erik Karlsson sent Zack Smith in alone by saucering a sumptuous three-zone stretch pass onto his stick, did go in, at least in part because of the way Price played it – he seemed to hesitate between stacking his pads and a poke-check.
The guilty party on that goal, however, just as he was on the Greening disallowed goal, was veteran defenceman Douglas Murray, whose slow line change gave Karlsson a passing lane, the chasing Subban (easily the best Hab on the night) couldn’t make up the gap.
But that’s enough about the goalie.
Yes, he gave up four goals – Clarke MacArthur and Hemsky tallied in the third – on 34 shots, but he faced a total of six breakaways, and kept his team in it.
The Habs opened the scoring in this one after just 38 seconds (Daniel Brière bamboozled Ryan and stripped the puck off a faceoff, then outwitted Karlsson before wiring a wrist shot past a screened Lehner).
The Habs put the pedal to the metal from there – though Spezza would tie the game within three minutes, they outshot the Sens 17-4 in the period, and could have been up by four or more goals.
Brière should have scored a hat-trick in the first given all the chances – Vanek, Desharnais and Eller all had stellar opportunities, none of them converted.
And that, folks, is the problem.
The Habs had three power-play opportunities in the first, and came up empty on all them – despite creating a crazy number of chances.
Converting on those is the challenge going forward.