Will someone please show this man a little love?
Montreal Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty scored a hat trick, became the first player in NHL history to have two penalty shots in the same period, and promptly missed them both – it might be called an eventful evening.
When his third goal struck an empty net with eight seconds to play, only a light dusting of hats were tossed onto the ice surface.
That wouldn’t be such a big deal if the same thing hadn’t happened when he scored a natural hat trick against the Minnesota Wild at the Bell Centre in November.
“What’s two hat tricks, six goals? Both of them combined I don’t think I got six hats on the ice. Maybe the fans are mad at me. I’m not sure what it is, maybe I’ll go out and buy some hats for the fans one game, maybe get a hat trick, they can throw them on the ice,” he deadpanned in mock-lament. “I think I got more on Long Island for my first hat trick.”
Actually, never mind the love, give this guy a rimshot.
If Pacioretty could afford to be in a jokey mood it’s because his two penalty shots within a three-minute span in the second period (which set a new NHL record) ended up being inconsequential in a 5-2 rout of the Vancouver Canucks.
He shot wide on the first and saw the second saved, it’s the Connecticut native’s bad luck they happened to come against Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo – who stopped his only other career penalty shot attempt, earlier this season.
“I tried the same move tonight and I definitely had him swimming with the fake shot, I thought I could beat him with a shot instead of a deke, but he’s such a big goalie and he leans forward, he took up so much of the net and it kind of threw me off,” he said. “The second one, I think at that point I was just in my own head. I couldn’t believe that was even happening, I was pretty tired as well. If we’d lost the game I would be pretty upset right now, but obviously I can joke about it.”
And what about getting his name in the NHL record book?
“I saw that stat, it’s pretty embarrassing,” he said.
The main sub-plot to this game – which culminated in the Canucks’ sixth straight loss – involved goaltenders Carey Price and Luongo, who are vying for the Team Canada starting job at the Olympic hockey tournament in Sochi, which begins next week.
Afterward, neither man seemed all that interested in looking beyond the result.
“That’s a tough one . . . another night without any points. It’s important we don’t get frustrated. We (have to) dig deep, work hard,” Luongo said.
In truth, Luongo did a lot right in this game – two of the four goals he allowed were on the power-play, another came amid heavy traffic in front of the net, and the last was kicked in by Vancouver defenceman Alex Edler.
Price, for his part, said he was glad to have gotten through the game, “but (the Olympic battle) hasn’t been much of a distraction, to be honest, we’ve got a really focused group, we’re just trying to stay focused on our job here.”
If a judgment as to who should start for Canada in Sochi were to be rendered on the evidence of this game, it would likely shade in Price’s favour.
Other than a stick-handling blunder in the third period that nearly ended up in the net, Price put in a drama-free outing, making 42 saves – he has now stopped 172 of the last 178 he has faced (for a gaudy .966 save percentage).
That said, both men showed off their considerable talent, the Canadian net should be in good hands no matter who coach Mike Babcock entrusts it to.
In Pacioretty’s words: “those are two unbelievable goalies, and I can’t score on either of them on breakaways. Next time I’ll just close my eyes and shoot.”
Here’s something the Team Canada coaches might want to note: Luongo is perfect on the five penalty shots he’s faced this year.
Luongo also turned away Montreal’s Brandon Prust with a desperation sprawl as the Habs roared up the ice on a short-handed two-on-one early in the second.
A little while later, it was Price’s turn to thwart an odd-man chance, first repelling Zack Kassian’s shot before making an athletic sliding save on David Booth’s follow-up.
Luongo and Price are friendly (“he’s a really funny guy, pretty laid back,” Price said earlier this week), but don’t know each other well (“the first time I met him was at the orientation camp last summer,” Luongo said before the game).
Still, netminders tend to stick together – as Price said “it’s called a goalie union for a reason, right?” – and so it was that they briefly exchanged pleasantries during the pre-game warm-up, tapping each other on the pads.
If anyone needed a reminder that the Olympics are looming, it was delivered just before puck drop as the rink announcer named the Olympians from both teams – the Habs’ seven representatives gathered at centre ice next to flag-waving kids wearing their uniform number.
When Luongo’s face appeared on the scoreboard, fans cheered wildly – there were also cries of “Luuuuu” – they were only marginally louder when Price’s turn came.
History will show Price was the first goaltender to make a save – a routine chest stop on a long shot by Edler.
Soon after he had to deal with Team U.S.A. forward Ryan Kesler hacking at his catching glove as he froze a puck – another not-so-subtle reminder of what lies ahead (Luongo got one of those late in the game when Pacioretty, another Team U.S.A. player, came over to chirp him after teammate Brendan Gallagher was called for goalie interference).
The first shot Luongo faced was a tricky back-hand from former teammate Dale Weise, which he squeezed under his arm.
He wasn’t so lucky at 14:59 of the first, when Team Canada defenceman P.K. Subban’s shot glanced off Pacioretty and under a screened Luongo’s arm.
Just 1:03 later, the Habs doubled their lead when Luongo couldn’t glove a puck in the goalmouth traffic – although he clearly thought he had – and Ryan White lofted a back-hand into the net.
Like Montreal, the Canucks have trouble scoring goals – both teams have the luxury of employing goalies they can rely on – but Vancouver managed to sneak one past Price at 2:31 of the second.
That goal, a power-play marker by former Hab Christopher Higgins, came on a deflection.
In the third, Pacioretty would atone for his earlier profligacy, scooping up an astute behind-the-back feed from David Desharnais to fire past an out-stretched Luongo.
“I wasn’t even calling for (the puck),” Pacioretty said. “It’s just ridiculous that he knew to make that pass.”
The Habs later made it 4-1 on a two-on-one when Edler scuffed the puck into his own net with his right skate – Tomas Plekanec was given credit.
With Gallagher in the box, Edler fired a wrister past a screened Price to make it 4-2, Pacioretty’s empty-netter made it 5-2 and completed the hat-trick.
Rest easy, Team Canada fans, none of those were on the goalie.