MONTREAL – The struggling Montreal Canadiens are heading into all-star break fresh off a blowout win—over the first-overall Detroit Red Wings of all teams.
The Canadiens jumped on the listless-looking Red Wings early, pumping four past all-star goaltender Jimmy Howard in the opening period of a 7-2 win on Wednesday night.
The Canadiens hope the good vibe from a big win will carry over as they make a push for a playoff spot after the break, beginning with a home game Tuesday against Buffalo.
”We want to remember a lot of this,” said coach Randy Cunneyworth. ”It’s crucial that we pick up where we left off and continue to play the right way no matter who we’re up against.
”Guys will appreciate the break. It’s mentally healthy and anyone who is banged up will welcome the healing.”
Montreal ended Detroit’s seven-game winning streak.
”A lot of it was just net presence, guys banging in rebounds and second chance opportunities,” said winger Erik Cole, whose line with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty combined for seven points. ”They were all (scored from) around the goal.
”A good effort by everyone to get pucks to the net, especially against a team that does a good job of blocking shots.”
The Canadiens (19-21-9) have won two in a row and moved past Tampa Bay into 11th place in the NHL Eastern Conference, eight points out of a playoff position.
Rookie defenceman Alexei Emelin, with his first NHL goal, Rene Bourque, Desharnais and Tomas Plekanec had goals on Montreal’s 12 first-period shots.
Pacioretty and Desharnais scored on Montreal’s first two shots on back-up goalie Ty Conklin for a 6-0 lead only 4:18 into the second period, while Cole added a goal with 1:23 left in the game.
Jiri Hudler had both goals early in the third frame for the Red Wings (33-16-1), who put up little resistance even if they outshot Montreal 27-25.
”I’m not going to watch any video at all,” said dismayed Wings’ coach Mike Babcock. ”I’m going out for a drink.”
It was the only game scheduled on the final night before the regular season shuts down for the four-day break leading into Sunday’s all-star game in Ottawa. Both Howard and Montreal goalie Carey Price will play in the game.
The Red Wings were coming off a 17th straight home win Monday over St. Louis. They saw their road record drop to 13-14-0 with a half-effort without flu-stricken captain Nicklas Lidstrom.
It was Detroit’s first loss since a 5-1 result against the New York Islanders on Jan. 10.
The rare one-sided game had the 21,273 Bell Centre spectators singing their ”Ole Ole” song early on, even if there was little to cheer after Montreal took a six-goal lead. Both sides played the later stages of the game like they wanted to get the game over with and start the break.
Bourque went to the net and had a Scott Gomez shot go in off his skate 5:08 into the game and Andrei Kostitsyn did some hard forechecking to set up Emelin for his first goal in 37 NHL games at 10:56.
Desharnais lost control of the puck but saw it slide past Howard with the teams each short a man at 17:58, and the goaltender looked to be napping as Plekanec added one with 27 seconds left in the period on Bourque’s rebound.
Pacioretty and Desharnais, on a power play, each scored with high shots from in close early in the second.
A turnover in the Montreal zone allowed Hudler to end Price’s shutout bid 21 seconds into the third. He added another at 6:07 of the third when he was left alone in front to tap in Mike Commodore’s pass.
Cole poked in his 19th of the season late in the game.
Despite the big win, much of the post-game talk centred once again on defenceman P.K. Subban, who was benched for the entire second period after his elbowing penalty against Dan Cleary nullified a Montreal power play late in the first. He was back for the third frame.
”It was a selfish penalty he took,” said Cole. ”We had the luxury of a four-goal lead to let him know you have to have discipline.
”Especially after the break and heading down the stretch and into the playoffs, you’re going to take some runs, take a punch to the head, and you have to stay focused on the task. It was a good opportunity for the coaches to send a message.”
The gifted 22-year-old Subban had been under fire for his sometimes undisciplined play and for arguing with assistant coach Randy Ladouceur on the bench during a game in Pittsburgh last week.
Notes: Lidstrom’s team-high 213-game run without missing a game ended as he sat out with a cold. That put Mike Commodore and Jakub Kindl both in the game, instead of one sitting out. . . McGill alum Babcock wore his university tie behind the Detroit bench. He is now 6-3 in his ”lucky” tie. Montreal placed centre Petteri Nokelainen on injured reserve retro to Jan. 20 with an upper body problem. Travis Moen sat out for the same reason while Chris Campoli was a scratch.