Last night Montreal hosted the battle for the basement of the Eastern Conference, with the 14th and 15th place teams squaring off. The Canadiens jumped out to an early lead, scoring only three minutes into the game. Aaron Palushaj scored from the red line by banking the puck off Al Montoya, who was playing for the first time since February 20th, nearly a month. The Islanders have allowed so many early goals this season it’s almost par for the course at this point, and the team did a nice job bouncing back.
In the second period, the Islanders pretty much took over the game from the Canadiens. Montreal had been involved in an overtime game in Ottawa the previous night, showing a bit of a slow down in the second. The Islanders outshot Montreal 18-9 in the frame, and that statistic was 11-1 at the 13 minute mark of the period. Mark Streit would tie up the game early in the period, busting right through the Montreal defense and putting a slick wrister past Peter Budaj (with a non-stat-sheet assist from Matt Moulson setting a pick at the blueline). The goal was the less flashy version of the OT winner he scored against Los Angeles at the Coliseum. Al Montoya made a few nice saves on a couple of fast break chances that the Canadiens had, but other than that he wasn’t tested a whole lot. At the end of the period, Frans Nielsen put the Islanders ahead 2-1 with a nice shot over Budaj’s glove from the top face off circle.
With each team winning a round, the third period was tightly contested with even 7-7 shot totals. But there was a bright moment for the Habs, with PK Subban showing why he is considered such a solid young player. Subban did everything but score the Canadiens’ second goal, impressively threading his way through the neutral zone and throwing a great backhand pass across the middle of the Islanders’ defensive zone that found Louis Leblanc. Leblanc finished the play with a backhand past Montoya and that’s where the teams would end the scoring, until the shootout. The skills competition went into extra sessions with six players attempting for each team. For the Islanders, Frans Nielsen scored with a forehand — yes, his shootout skills are evolving quite well, I guess in anticipation of other teams knowing all about the backhand of justice. Things were tied after three shooters a piece and Rene Bourque scored what could have been the winner for Montreal as their fourth shooter. With the game on the line Matt Moulson would prolong the shootout with a small, quick deke the found the back of the net. After a pair of misses for each team, Josh Bailey would win it for the Isles.