Saturday April 18th, 2015

Alex Galchenyuk scored 3:40 into overtime to give the Canadiens a 3-2 win over the Senators in a hard-fought Game 2. Three thoughts as the Habs head to Ottawa with a 2-0 series lead:

1. The Habs' stars played their roles.

Absent two of their best players, the Canadiens rode a pair of above-and-beyond efforts from grinders Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell to victory over the Sens in the series opener. Friday night, P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty returned to action and returned the favor as the Habs took control of this first-round series.

NHL
Canadiens get to Hammond, Senators despite Subban's early ejection

This was Subban at his price-of-admission best, a virtuoso performance that highlighted his speed, physicality and offensive prowess. Subban played a game-high 29:06 and was a force at both ends of the ice. He attempted 13 shots, landing five on net including a brilliant spin-o-rama that slipped through a maze of bodies out front and a devastating clap bomb that beat Andrew Hammond high glove and gave the Canadiens a 2-1 lead in the second.

He was equally brilliant in his own zone, disrupting an inspired end-to-end rush by Erik Karlsson and breaking up several bids down low with an active stick and excellent positioning.

Pacioretty wasn't quite as obvious, although it was his power play goal that evened the game early in the second and turned the tide in Montreal's favor. He made excellent use of the space Ottawa's defenders gave him on the play, sliding from the low slot up high and opening himself up for a feed from David Desharnais that he buried with an efficient one timer.

• FARBER: You can't stay angry at P.K. Subban

His greatest contribution though was simply being there. The Sens had to defend him in a way that P.A. Parenteau didn't demand in the opener, and that created more space for his linemates. Even if he's not 100%, he's proven he's still a threat.

2. Montreal must take advantage on the power play. 

NHL
Watch: Montreal goalie Carey Price makes ridiculous toe save

You have to think Montreal's struggles on the power play will cost them before these playoffs are over. The Habs were given four consecutive chances, including a pair early in the third period when the game was still 2-1. They managed to create several excellent chances, but their inability to put down the hammer left the door open for Patrick Wiercioch's tying goal late in the period (not coincidentally on the power play) and extended a game that they dominated to overtime.

If anyone is going to change up that luck, it'll be Brendan Gallagher. The guy all but had his mail forwarded to Hammond's crease where he was camped out most of the night. He tormented the Ottawa keeper with a game-high nine shots, including the one that bounced off Hammond's pad right to the stick of Galchenyuk for the winner. That kind of hunger is bound to pay off eventually for No. 11.

3. Mark Stone turned in a gutsy performance for the Senators.

For a guy who wasn't expected to play Friday, and who looked very uncomfortable in warmups, Mark Stone sure turned in a terrific game. His fractured wrist clearly limited his ability to shoot the puck–he didn't make a single attempt all night–and he rarely had two hands on his stick, but every other element of his game was exceptional. He earned the primary assist on both Ottawa goals, making a quick up to Clarke MacArthur in the neutral zone on the opener and then winning a corner battle before finding Wiercioch for the equalizer. He was equally sharp defensively, taking his usual turn on the penalty kill and creating at least four more turnovers than the stingy scorers in Montreal were willing to credit him with. It was a heroic effort, but the Sens have to hope he's a fast healer. They'll need to put forth their best effort of the season on Sunday. If he's not firing they'll be hard pressed to win that one, let alone four of the next five.

Honorable mention to Curtis Lazar, who posted a game-high eight hits and rarely wasted a shift, and Mika Zibanejad, who rebounded from a disappointing performance in Game 1 with a more focused and physical effort. It might make sense to skate rookie Mike Hoffman on his wing for the entirety of Game 3. Hoffman, who led all freshmen with 27 goals in the regular season, has the hands to compensate for Stone but needs consistent top-six ice time if he's going to pick up the slack. 

Bonus Thought: Ottawa coach Dave Cameron appealed to his team to focus on discipline over vengeance for Stone in this contest. The Sens responded by avoiding the urge to retaliate against Subban, but that didn't stop them from forming a conga line to the penalty box. The game went sideways for Ottawa during that second period stretch when they committed four consecutive fouls, and they never quite got their feet back under them after starting OT with 42 seconds of PK time. Forget about Montreal's power play struggles. If Ottawa wants to dictate Game 3 instead of chasing it, they have to stay out of the box.

 

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