Habs earn second straight win for Cunneyworth
Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency
|Montreal Canadiens' Raphael Diaz battles with Tampa Bay Lightning's Dana Tyrell (42) during the first period of NHL hockey action in Montreal January 7, 2012. (REUTERS/Christinne Muschi)
A small group of protesters waving and handing out Quebec flags outside the Bell Centre decried the hiring of the unilingual English Randy Cunneyworth as the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night.
Inside the building, there didn’t seem to be too many complaints as the Canadiens won two games in a row for their new coach for the first time with a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“French shut out in the Bell Centre” read one of the signs being hefted by one of about 150 protesters outside the Bell Centre. The group was environmentally responsible, some of the signs written on the other side of recycled NDP campaign signs from the last federal election.
Few of the Quebec flags handed out by the protestors were visible inside the Bell Centre during the course of the game.
“That’s their perogative, if that’s what they would like,” said Cunneyworth, who said he heard about the protest a couple of days ago. “I was focused on the game. I didn’t give it a great deal of thought, but I was aware of it.”
Cunneyworth started off his post-game press conference by saying in French “I’m very proud of Alex Emelin,” the Canadiens defenceman who played with a full cage after taking a puck in the face in practice Friday.
The win lifted the Habs record to 16-18-7 as they are two games into a stretch that will see them play eight of 11 games in January on home ice. The Canadiens record under Cunneyworth, who replaced Jacques Martin Dec. 17, is now 3-6.
The Canadiens, now with 39 points, moved two points up on the Lightning and into 12th place in the Eastern Conference, two point back of the Buffalo Sabres. They started the night eight points out of eighth place and shaved a point off that as both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils won (the Leafs with 47 points and the Devils with 48), dropping the Pittsburgh Penguins to eighth spot with 46 points.
After falling behind four minutes into the game on a shot from the corner by Dominic Moore that was redirected by Vincent Lecavalier in the crease, the Canadiens took a 2-1 lead on goals by Michael Blunden - his first as a Hab - and Max Pacioretty, who ended a 10-goal scoreless streak.
“I just felt like I was going to score tonight,” said Pacioretty. “It’s a relief after 10 games. It’s a great feeling to help the team win a game.”
Blunden’s goal at 5:44 of the second period was a pretty good example of why the Bolts find themselves where they are in the standings as goaltender Mathieu Garon gave up a bad one. Blunden stopped a shot/pass by Canadiens defenceman Hal Gill and hefted a backhand at Garon which slipped under the goaltender’s arm at the edge of the crease.
Less than two minutes later, Pacioretty got a break and snapped a 27-footer by Garon on the stick side at 7:17.
Pacioretty’s goal came just seconds after Montreal goaltender Carey Price had turned back Tampa’s Martin St. Louis, who had been sent in by Steven Stamkos.