This Montreal Canadiens team is weird.
When a team that gets embarassed by Toronto and defeated by other lowly teams such as Columbus and Long Island defeats a team so good as the defending champs in such dominating fashion, you have to wonder how it all makes sense.
The Habs defeated Detroit 3-1 last night, and did so in a defensive-minded effort.
Montreal's game plan was obvious from the get-go: stack bodies in the neutral zone, allow no one to forecheck deep, and force Detroit to dump the puck in and chase. The plan worked perfectly against a team that uses puck posession and speed to their advantage. The system forced the Wings to dump the puck in, and despite them chasing, they were rarely ever able to gain control of the puck long enough to set up a decent attempt on goal. The reason for that was Montreal was winning nearly all of their 1-on-1 battles, and then used transition play at key times to find the back of Detroit's net on three occasions.
Montreal got the lead early in the second, when a Maxim Lapierre pass attempt from below the goal line redirected in off captain Nicklas Lidstrom's skate.
Shortly after that, Tomas Plekanec scored on a shortened Montreal powerplay, completing a tic-tac-toe passing play with defenseman Andrei Markov. The goal was initially a result of an Alex Kovalev takeaway - he got the secondary assist.
Just 50 seconds after that, Detroit coach Mike Babcock was forced to call a timeout as Chris Higgins took a nifty drop-pass from captain Saku Koivu and slid a backhander along the ice passed Ty Conklin.
Ryan O'Byrne, playing in his first game since the brutal own-goal incident Monday night, played a very solid game, apart from the fact that his giveaway led to Johan Franzen's shutout-breaking 10th of the season. Franzen showed dangler hands as he completely undressed O'Byrne before moving to his backhand to beat Price who was still on the wrong side of the net.
Josh Gorges had a spectacular outing, as has become the norm, especially in Komisarek's absence. Gorges blocked 2 shots (one of which required him to walk off the pain in the tunnel), dished out two hits, took a shot of his own and played for over 22:30.
Carey Price turned aside 32 shots for the win; Conklin stopped 25.
The win may have come at a price though, as Alex Tanguay left the game in the first period after being rocked by a hard, clean hit courtesy of Brad Stuart along the boards. He finished his shift but didn't return. Tom Kostopoulos filled his spot on the line alongside Koivu and Higgins, and he did a very good job at that, creating space and generating chances.
The Habs handed Detroit their first regulation loss of the month.
The Canadiens now prepare to face a surging Capitals squad in Washington, led by Alexander Ovechkin (fresh off a 3 goal 1 assist performance) and Jose Theodore.
Ovechkin, by the way, has really heated up in November: He has 10 goals and 21 points in his last nine games. Has has earned at least a point in all nine of those games, and has had three or more points four times.