Montreal Canadiens (17-7-2) at Minnesota Wild (13-9-1)
|Date & Time||Wednesday December 3, 2014, 7:00 PM (EST)|
The Line: Minnesota Wild -127 / Montreal Canadiens +115 --- Over/Under: 5
The Montreal Canadiens look to follow up their victory over the Colorado Avalanche with another win when they travel to Minnesota to take on the Wild. A three game losing streak with two of the losses coming to the Buffalo Sabres had fans in Montreal starting to worry, but Monday night’s contest at the Pepsi Center helped restore some sanity. Jiri Sekac got the Canadiens off to a quick start with his fourth goal of the season but Montreal allowed a late first period goal and another just 35 seconds into the second to fall behind Colorado 2-1. The Canadiens used their lethal power play to even things up on Andrei Markov’s third of the year, but they’d fall behind yet again when Tyson Barrie scored to regain the lead for the Avalanche. It was an uphill battle all night long for Montreal but their perseverance paid off. P.K. Subban scored for the sixth time this season to tie the game 3-3 and although the Canadiens did not generate much in the third they managed to find the game winning goal on the stick of Max Pacioretty. It was a much needed win for a hockey club that has gotten off to a great start but still has a lot of the obsessive fan base worried about some of their deficiencies. This group of defenseman still leaves a lot to be desired but having a netminder like Carey Price in goal helps to cover up some of their mistakes. Price stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced in this one to record his 14th victory of the season. If the Canadiens are going to be successful this season they need their defense to transition the puck out of their zone as quickly as possible. The defense corps isn’t built to bang bodies in the corners and allow teams to have extended zone time. Montreal has done a pretty good job at this for the most part but it will be interesting to see if they are up for the task again on Wednesday night against the Wild.
Minnesota comes into Wednesday’s contest off a 3-2 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues, but they have reason to be encouraged with their play. It started Friday night in Dallas when the Wild finally got the type of game they have been waiting for from free agent Thomas Vanek. This is a player that has the ability to be a game changer offensively, and that’s something the Wild desperately needed when they went out and signed him this offseason. To this point Vanek hasn’t lived up to the billing, and he’s looked lost at times on the ice. Head coach Mike Yeo talked about the adjustments that Vanek is facing moving to a new conference, a new team, and a new system, and against the Stars they finally saw some production. Vanek had a goal and two assists in the 5-4 win and his presence can completely change the complexion of this club. Saturday’s contest only garnered the Wild one point in the standings but Minnesota controlled play for much of the night. The Wild outs shot the Blues 17-5 in the second period and 38-26 for the game but a late third period goal by David Backes sent the game to overtime. Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville were all denied by Jake Allen in the shootout. The Wild have alternated wins and losses here over the last five games and it’s time they put a bit of a winning streak together again or risk falling further behind in the Central Division. It isn’t that the Wild’s play has been poor by any means, but when you’ve got teams like the Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, and Chicago Blackhawks in your division there really isn’t any point in the season where you can afford to struggle.
This should be a competitive game between two teams with high expectations this season. Both teams are trying to get back on a winning streak but the Wild have looked a little better lately despite the shootout loss on Saturday night.