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Barzal, Tavares shine as Islanders edge Canadiens 5-4 in overtime

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The scary thing about Mathew Barzal is that he may just be gaining steam.

Any time the New York Islanders play these days, it turns into Barzal Watch (in the Twitter world: #BarzalWatch). Even if the Islanders had plummeted as of late with five losses in their past six games heading into Monday, many are just tuning in to see what the dynamic rookie is going to do.

Indeed, Barzal has been lights this season, with 44 points in 44 games prior to Monday and coming off the buzz of a five-point game on Saturday — the second time he’s done that this season.

But John Tavares, who had just one goal in nine games coming into Monday, stole some of that spotlight back with a shorthanded goal in regulation and then the game-winner in overtime in a 5-4 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

Tavares second of the game came 1:51 into over time and after Carey Price made quite the save to stop a redirected attempt by Tavares just before the latter scored the winner.

Barzal was at it again early in the first period as the Islanders jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead.

Barzal fed Anthony Beauvillier with a nice lead pass and the latter ripped home his eighth of the season just down the road from where he grew up in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, beating Carey Price with New York’s first shot of the game.

It was Barzal’s 30th assist of the season and he followed that up with his 16th goal of the year on the Islanders just over five minutes later for the two-goal advantage. Barzal finished with three points and now has 10 in his past three games.

The Canadiens entered the game 2-0-1 in their past three games but were without Phillip Danault due to a puck to the head on Saturday and Andrew Shaw, who was injured in the same game.

Despite their recent success, things looked grim early on, with Price allowing two goals on four shots.

The Hab battled back, first by forcing a turnover in New York’s zone, allowing Jakub Jerabek to quickly find a wide open Nicolas Deslauriers out front to make it 2-1.

Another defensive breakdown by the Isles led to the tying goal as Paul Byron snatched his 12th of the year on a rebound.

Barzal grabbed his third point of the night early in the second period as the Isles restored the lead with Adam Pelech‘s first of the season at 2:37. And the Islanders led by two for the second time as John Tavares scored shorthanded 1:59 later on New York’s 10th shot.

The Canadiens, down two again, needed a second comeback and they put it together beginning with Jonathan Drouin‘s marker with 34 seconds left in the second period.

Montreal completed the comeback on the power play in the third, with Max Pacioretty scoring his 14th at 13:01.

NHL on NBCSN: Islanders look to continue strong second half start vs. Habs

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues as the Montreal Canadiens host the New York Islanders at 7:30 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here.

The Islanders came out of their five-day break rest, refreshed and apparently, ready to score some goals.

On Saturday afternoon, Doug Weight’s men lit up the New York Rangers 7-2 at Madison Square Garden, a phenomenal welcome back after losing five of six heading into the bye week. New York sits one point behind the Rangers for an Eastern Conference wild card spot but are also in the thick of things in the tight Metropolitan Division. While there are some games in-hand to be played by teams, the difference between second place and last in the division is a mere five points.

There’s going to be a lot of movement as these final two-and-a-half months play out, which means it might be tough to not take a peek at the out-of-town scores on a nightly basis.

“We’ve just got to win,” Doug Weight said via Arthur Staple of Newsday. “We put ourselves in a good position early and we kind of put that away; now it’s just a big mess. We don’t need to scoreboard-watch; we need to take care of our business.”

[CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE]

The Canadiens have a lot more work to do sitting eight points behind the Rangers in the East. They picked up a point during a Saturday night shootout loss to the Boston Bruins, but most concerning was the status of Phillip Danault, who took a Zdeno Chara slapshot to the helmet and had to be stretchered off.

After spending the night at a local hospital under observation, Danault was released on Sunday and is resting at home. His father wrote on Facebook Saturday night that his son was “doing well and his scan came back normal.”

As the Canadiens wait to get Danault back, they have a tough stretch of games this week, which includes two more meetings with the Bruins. Getting good news on their teammate will certainly help with the mindset as they get back to it tonight.

“Phil is a player who plays both ends of the ice. He’s an important player – for the power play, penalty kill,” said Jonathan Drouin. “He’s a big piece of ours at center, but every time someone gets hurt, other guys need to step up.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Canadiens’ Phillip Danault takes slap shot to head

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On-ice moments don’t get much scarier than what happened at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Saturday.

Late in the second period in a game between the Montreal Canadiens and the visiting Boston Bruins, Zdeno Chara took a one-timer from the point that got high in a hurry and caught Canadiens forward Phillip Danault in the side of the head.

Danault laid on the ice for several minutes before a stretcher made its way out onto the ice.

Players on both teams, refs and fans stood nearly silent as the Canadiens trainers worked with Danault.

Pucks traveling at high speeds are inherently dangerous, but that doesn’t make plays like this any less difficult to watch.

Nobody knows the velocity of Chara’s shot better than the man himself. And Chara looked devastated by what laid in from of him.

Chara stood by Danault throughout the whole ordeal, and when they got him up on the stretcher and ready to wheel him out, Chara kneeled down and said some words to the Canadiens forward.

UPDATE: The Canadiens tweeted out that Danault has been taken to the hospital due to a head injury. They say he’s moving and awake.

Refs stopped the game with 1:37 left in the period, sending both teams to their respective rooms for an early intermission and resumed the game following the break with 1:37 left.

UPDATE: According to the Canadiens, Danault is at home resting after being released from hospital.

Here’s what Chara had to say after the game:


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Marc Bergevin a firm believer Canadiens can turn season around

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Hours before the Montreal Canadiens won their second in a row with a 5-2 dispatching of the Vancouver Canucks Sunday night, general manager Marc Bergevin held court with the media and stated he wasn’t ready to begin thinking about the draft lottery.

“As of now we haven’t thrown in the towel,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do to get into the playoffs, and for the next 41 games we’ll evaluate the team closely and make the necessary decisions for the good of the organization in the short and long term. I believe it’s possible [to make the playoffs], but I also believe a lot of things have to change for us to do it. If we keep on the same pattern as the first half, it’s not going to be possible, but I believe.”

With the win Sunday night the Canadiens are seven points out of an Eastern Conference wild card spot, which is probably their only lifeline given that they are 12 points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for third in the Atlantic Division. Seeing how competitive the Metropolitan Division has been, the Habs are going to have to go on several hot streaks over the final 40 games of their season to have a shot at a postseason berth.

It hasn’t been an easy year for the Canadiens. Carey Price missed time. Shea Weber has been out since mid-December and only played 26 games. Jonathan Drouin is still finding his way while his GM says his long-term future is probably on the wing, but the team needs him at center.

“A lot of things have to change,” which, according to Bergevin, means that help will need to come from the players on the roster and not from the outside.

“In the perfect world, would I love to add a piece to help them? Of course,” Bergevin said. “But to sacrifice the future and be taking a major risk to hurt the organization for the long term? I’m not ready to do that. And to be honest with you, the short-term solution, there’s nobody out there that I’m aware of that’s going to come and turn this thing around.”

In the meantime, Habs fans will look at the seasons of Drouin and free agent acquisition Karl Alzner and then peer over at what Alex Radulov and Mikhail Sergachev are doing in Dallas and Tampa Bay, respectively, and want to reach for the pitch forks. The last two seasons have seen Montreal miss the playoffs and exit in the first round after a 103-point, division-winning campaign. Blame has already been placed on one coach and he’s gone (Michel Therrien). The hottest seat has since resided in Bergevin’s office.

“I think it starts with me, to the coaches, to the players,” Bergevin said. “I think we’re all in this together and we all have to take responsibility.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Max Pacioretty has never been this low

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Max Pacioretty has been through the rigamarole of an NHL season before.

But as the Montreal Canadiens captain admitted on Monday, it’s never been this bad.

“I’ve gone through ups and downs, but never this low,” Pacioretty told the Montreal Gazette.

And it’s what came before that statement, as doom and gloomy as it sounds, it paints the best picture of what is going on in Montreal and what Pacioretty can likely expect over the coming weeks or months.

“If it happens, it happens,” Pacioretty said, responding to the trade rumors that have engulfed him since a report on Saturday from Sportsnet said the Canadiens were shopping their captain. “I’m very proud of the past success I’ve had in Montreal. I’ve played here for 10 years and I’ve never gone through something like this.”

‘This,’ as Pacioretty puts it, is a Canadiens team that getting by on life support. ‘This’ is Pacioretty going for a 12-game dump in the goal department in December.

‘This’ is a team eight points adrift of the playoff line, one underperforming and perhaps lacking the right pieces to get its talent moving.

As Sportsnet’s Eric Engels pointed out on New Years Day, it might be the lack of playmaking talent around Pacioretty that has him heading toward his worst season in a long time.

Pacioretty has hit the 30-goal mark in five of his past six seasons (with a 15 goal season coming during the 2012-13 lockout campaign).

This year? Pacioretty will be lucky to hit 20 the way things currently stand.

“Playmakers like Andrei Markov, Alexander Radulov and David Desharnais allowed Pacioretty to focus almost uniquely on getting to the dead spaces of the offensive zone and uncorking the shot that’s given him a fair portion of his 217 goals in this league,” Engels wrote. “But they’re all plying their trades with different teams now and Bergevin hasn’t done nearly enough to replace them.”

Indeed, Bergevin hasn’t done much.

The acquisition of Jonathan Drouin hasn’t paid off in the way the Habs would have liked up to this point, and Montreal is still trying to make Alex Galchenyuk work. But where are the replacements for guys like Radulov and Markov?

Trading Pacioretty won’t solely fix the Canadiens, but it at least could be a step in that direction with the assets any deal would likely bring to la belle province.

The 29th captain in Habs history seemingly resigned to the fact that he’ll be on the move in the future and a team with the right talent to support his goal-scoring prowess would likely excite the 29-year-old.

Pacioretty has a desirable contract given his past production. With a year remaining on the deal that pays him $4.5 million annually, he could be a bargain for a team looking to make a run at a Stanley Cup this season.

And without any movement clauses in his contract, the Canadiens can’t do a lot of window shopping before heading to the cashier.

It could be a win-win for both parties.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck