Call of the Wilde: Despite 4-3 loss, Montreal Canadiens shine against New York – Montreal |

The Montreal Canadiens continued their difficult four game home stand with another strong opponent on Thursday night: the New York Rangers. It was the first visit for Patrick Kane to the Bell Centre as a Rangers player.

Kane was joined by some of the best players in hockey, yet the Canadiens took it to a shootout before falling 4-3.

Wilde Horses 

It’s unusual watching the Canadiens these days. They are at the bottom of the standings and there isn’t supposed to be any joy in that. Everyone watching the Canadiens is supposed to be watching an exercise in boredom and frustration.

What we have instead is a team motivated to play its best, despite being more Laval Rocket than Montreal Canadiens. They don’t seem interested in any ‘woe is me’ story revolving around their injuries, which for the second year running are the worst in the league.

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Case in point is the third goal of the night for Montreal. It’s Chris Tierney leading a two-on-one with Josh Anderson. Tierney smartly passes it when the lone defenceman attacks him. That leads to a breakaway for Anderson. He fires it home beautifully and Montreal takes the lead 3-2.

However, it’s not the goal that is of note. It’s the celebration after the goal. Anderson begins fist-pumping like the Canadiens have just won a playoff series in May. The joy at the bench has the same euphoria.

No one has told this lot that this is a nothing game in March playing out the string of a lost season. They actually believe they can beat anyone.

Half a roster of American Hockey League players are giving the best teams in the NHL, full of all-stars, all they can handle. On Tuesday night, the Carolina Hurricanes needed a shootout to win; on Thursday night, the New York Rangers struggled.

Some of these AHL players are enjoying the best moments of their lives. Rafael Harvey-Pinard is actually the leading scorer among rookies in the entire league since he was called up from Laval. Imagine if he were in Montreal all year. At this pace, he would be in the running for the Calder.

Alex Belzile seems to think he’s Wayne Gretzky. Belzile has been a journeyman bouncing around from town to town. At 31 years of age, he finally scored his first NHL goal. Now, he thinks he’s supposed to score one every game.

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Belzile ripped a scorcher into the top corner in the first period for at least a goal in three straight games. Riding the buses of the minors, he must have thought this moment was never coming. His smile at the bench is as wide as the bench.

Read more:

Montreal Canadiens fall 4-3 in shootout to the Carolina Hurricanes (March 7, 2023)

It’s a feel-good story and a feel-bad story at the same time. They’re fighting for Connor Bedard at the same time as they’re fighting the best teams in the league.

Add to the mix the return of Kaiden Guhle. He’s had a rough season trying to stay healthy. He came back into the lineup in this one and promptly scored in the first minute. He later added an assist.

Everyone is catching the fever. It’s not playoff fever. It’s not even a playoff race fever. It’s not Bedard fever. Who knows what kind of fever this is, but if a fan isn’t firmly in the Team Tank camp, they’re enjoying this like there actually is a real fever to catch.

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Pointe-Claire’s Mike Matheson honoured with Molson Cup

It is oddly as fun as any season that they made the playoffs. In fact, they have had some seasons at the top of the standings where the hockey sure wasn’t as enjoyable to watch as this. This is not Claude Julien hockey.

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Fans are loving this plucky band of men taking their lead from a head coach who somehow has them hyper-motivated. What an endorsement for Martin St. Louis. If the players are this invested at the bottom of the standings, it’s going to be one heck of an experience watching how invested they are when there actually is a real thing to be invested in.

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Montreal Canadiens fight hard but fall to Vegas Golden Knights

It’s been said often that Montreal fans would not put up with a rebuild. Critics said the fans would have no patience. The owner could not possibly allow losing seasons to happen in order to build a potential champion.

That is clearly false. It is year two of the rebuild, yet on Tuesday night, the Canadiens effort was so special that the fans actually rose up to give them a standing ovation in the third period. Not because they were winning easily. The score was actually tied at the time. The fans stood because of the effort.

The fans understand completely that it’s David versus Goliath out there, and they are loving how much David is competing.

Win or lose, there’s a lot to admire in these Laval Canadiens, or Montreal Rocket, or how about the Montreal-Laval Davids.

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Wilde Goats 

For the Habs, it was another night of overachieving. They took on a team loaded with all-stars and it was hard to tell who was the team with cup aspirations.

Wilde Cards 

It’s an exciting time for many of the Montreal Canadiens prospects as the NCAA hockey playoffs begin this weekend in all conferences. The junior prospects like Joshua Roy, Riley Kidney and Logan Mailloux will start their playoffs in late March, but for players like Sean Farrell in college, the time is now.

Farrell is a particularly interesting case, because the expectation is that he will sign with the Canadiens to conclude this season in Montreal as soon as his season is finished at Harvard.

The Crimson are one of the top teams in the country and Farrell is one of the top players. Harvard has drawn Princeton in the first round after they beat the Union Dutchman in Schenectady in the play-in game. The Crimson will be heavily favoured.

While Harvard is not favoured to go to the Frozen Four in early April, they will advance to the regionals even if they don’t win the ECAC playoffs. Due to their top ranking, the Crimson will get a wild card berth into the final 16.

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Boston University also gets a surprise opponent in its first round game. Lane Hutson and Luke Tuch will be heavily favoured to beat Vermont. The Catamounts shocked Maine 4-2 to advance to the Saturday afternoon affair in Boston.

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Another Hockey East contest has Northeastern against Providence as Jayden Struble looks to finish his college career on a high. It will be interesting to see if he is offered a contract when his time with the Huskies concludes. General Manager Kent Hughes only has 50 contracts to give. Struble is not a lock to get one, though he is talented.

In the Big 10, it’s going to be one heck of a tough test for Ohio State University as they face powerhouse Michigan. Jakub Dobas has had a terrific season with a save percentage of .920. He will need that number and then some to beat the Wolverines.

Finally, Rhett Pitlick will play for heavily favoured Minnesota as they take on surprising Michigan State who upset Notre Dame. Minnesota has already beaten Michigan State four of four times this season.

However, it’s a one-game playoff and that’s what makes college hockey so exciting as they approach the declaring of a national champion. In the 16 team regionals and the Frozen Four, every game is an elimination game.

Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on after each Canadiens game. 

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