It is mid-December and it is not too early to focus on the results of the Eastern Conference.
Because on Tuesday the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning won the Montreal Canadiens and pushed them to sixth place in the Atlantic Division before the boys in Bleu, Blanc and Rouge even hit the ice in Vancouver. These results made this first of seven direct competitions for the Canadiens on the road one of the most important games of the season.
With a 3-1 win over the Canucks, Montreal prevailed against the Maple Leafs, the Lightning and the idle Florida Panthers and regained third place in the division. The Canadians also moved within one point to the second-placed Buffalo Sabers, who had lost to Toronto in regulation, and they had a game in hand over the Sabers.
It was a victory that allowed Montreal to keep up in the wildcard race and place them three points behind the Philadelphia Flyers.
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The Canadians had left their homes with the bitter taste of defeat against the last lingering Detroit Red Wings. Coach Claude Julien had outlined the pressure they were facing to start this road trip with the right foot. He expected teams like Toronto and Tampa to climb the ranks.
"I think that is the pressure that every team in this league has to exert now," said Julien on Saturday. "It is what it is; there is nothing like:" Let's just play 82 games here and everything will be fine. "Every night is a big night and every win is a big win, so we have to see it and make sure of it that we are ready (on Tuesday) to get back on our feet in Vancouver. "
THE BIG TAKEAWAY
The Canadians who came into play with the eight most goals in the NHL in a 5v5 victory relied on another recipe to win this.
They unexpectedly won the battle of the special teams. Adam Gaudette may have started the game with a Powerplay goal, but the Canadiens, who finished 27th in the penalty shoot-out before the game, set the fourth-best powerplay in the league three times in a row.
At the other end of the ice, Montreal scored two Powerplay goals within 1:34 after the third third and never looked back.
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Phillip Danault made a remarkable play from his knees to line up Tomas Tatar with the first, and Shea Weber scored the second for the 214th goal of his career, which allowed him to overtake Brad Park and sole ownership of take 18th place on the list of all goals scored by an NHL defender.
Tatar and Weber's goals were scored in the only two power games the Canadians scored in the game, increasing their share from 20 percent to 21.7 percent. This puts them in tenth place in the NHL, which is a massive improvement over their previous season in which they were 30th with 13.2 percent.
• Joel Armia hit the 100-point plateau in his 269th NHL game with a second assist to Nick Cousins 1-1 draw in the second half. He added another template to Weber's goal, giving him 20 points in 32 games this season.
Armia would have scored up to 21 points if his goal in the second period had not been recalled by a coach's challenge because of goalkeeping interference.
• The play by Danault was his 26th point of the season. With 62 points, he is at every turn, which would exceed his previous career high (set last season) by nine points.
Danault finished seventh in the Selke Trophy last season. If he continues to dominate both ends of the ice, he will make a strong case for the three finalists this season.
• Canadian goalkeeper Carey Price returned to his home province in Vancouver with a lifelong 12-2-2 record and 0.936 percent savings. He was upside down in this game and scored 38 saves for his 13th win of the season.
It was the fifth game in a row in which Price had scored two or fewer goals. After giving up at least three goals in seven of his starts on November 11th, it can be said that what he did in December so far helped the Canadians stay in the thicket of the playoff race.
The Canadians travel to Calgary, where they play the 18-14-4 Flames on Thursday.