Well, hello! Dr. Jekyll, I presume?
And so the zig-when-you-expect-them-to-zag Canadiens defeated the mighty, streaking Washington Capitals last night, 6-5 in overtime. True to the form that we have gotten used to, the Habs kept their fans guessing by doing the opposite of what the majority expect. Perhaps that is our own fault and we should just learn to expect the unexpected with this team.
In beating the Caps 6-5 last night, the Canadiens continue to show that they are a team that can be deadly and dangerous when they play aggressively and this despite having 40 percent of their goal scoring out of the lineup.
From the drop of the puck, you could see that the Habs wanted this game. The Gomez, Gionta, Pyatt line—who caused problems for the Caps all night—opened the scoring only 36 seconds into the game when Gionta, coming out of the corner, made a short pass to Gomez who roofed his ninth of the season over the Caps' Neuvirth.
Six minutes later, the Capitals' Brooks Laich deked the puck in from the faceoff circle to the right of Price, and slipped the puck past him to tie it at one.
That was all the scoring that would take place in the first period, but the rest of the game was a shooting gallery, as the Habs put the pedal to the metal in the second.
The Habs came out like lions and Tom Pyatt scored his first NHL goal only 18 seconds into the second frame. However, Nicklas Backstrom got that one back 30 seconds later to tie the game at two.
With the game pretty evenly balanced, the Caps, oddly, made a goaltending change about five minutes into the second period. Neuvirth went to the bench in favour of Theodore and there was no real explanation as to why. During the intermission, when asked about the switch, the Caps had no comment. Strange. Very strange.
Having Theodore in nets—who the home crowd immediately started braying—didn't make things any better for the Caps as the Habs took the lead at 12:48.
Playing an uncharacteristic two-man forecheck, the Habs aggressive style led to a Brendan Morrison hooking penalty. On the subsequent powerplay, Glen Metropolit capitalized for his 12th of the season off of a sweet cross-crease feed from David Desharnais—his first NHL point.
But the Habs were just getting started as Maxim Lapierre scored his fifth of the season only 12 seconds later, off of a beautiful cross-ice pass from Sergei Kostitsyn, to make it a 4-2 game.
Six minutes later, the Habs increased their lead to three goals as Kostitsyn beat the Caps player to the puck, off a Hal Gill dump in. SK74 then moved towards the net only to make a pass out to Plekanec in the high slot, who roofed it past Theodore for his 16th goal of the season and a 5-2 Habs lead.
With the Habs holding a three goal lead going into the second intermission, it seemed like the Caps had been taken by surprise. You had to wonder if they had been done-in the night before by Montreal's holy trinity: SuperSex, Wanda's, and Chez Pare.
But the Caps were undaunted, having outscored their opposition by some 30+ goals in third periods, over their 14-game win streak. 16 seconds into the third they showed everyone just how deadly they can be.
With Tomas Plekanec sitting in the penalty box for slashing Mike Green riffled a shot from the point, past Price, to make it a 5-3 game. That goal gave the supremely confident Caps some momentum and they carried it through to the final buzzer.
Brooks Laich was the Caps hero of the evening, scoring unassisted at 9:02 on a 2-on-1 with Semin to make it a one goal game, and then completing his hat-trick with 18 seconds to go in the game to tie it at five and send the game into overtime.
While the Caps dictated the play for most of the overtime period, it was the home boys who came out ahead.
With less than a minute to go in overtime, Sergei Kostitsyn carried the puck into the offensive zone and swept from the outside towards the net. SK74 made a little pump-fake then passed the puck to Plekanec in front of the net, who shot the puck into the open side for the winning goal. The goal was Plek's 17th of the season and it sealed the deal for the Habs. Final score Habs 6 - Caps 5 (OT).
1 - Price was good and bad tonight. Last night's game was Carey Price's first start since Jan. 27, 2010. That is almost two full weeks since he has seen any game action as Halak as been lights out over that span.
Despite the layoff, Price started the game off very strong. He looked sharp and aggressive, coming out to challenge shooters and standing up to shots. Price was also playing the puck a lot in the first period which is always a sign that he is feeling good.
The problems started for Price in the third period. While he had made some exceptional saves up to that point, you could see his confidence take a hit as the Caps scored early to make it a two goal game.
Despite getting some offensive support from his teammates, for a change, Price demonstrated last night that his confidence is still very fragile. You could almost feel that the Caps were going to tie the game up, as Price's shaky confidence reared its ugly head in the third.
Rather than the aggressive, focused player we saw in the first, Price became a tentative, nervous player in the third. Deep in his net, quick to go down on his knees and not playing the puck as much. When Price is in that state he usually lets in soft goals, as he did last night, especially on the tying goal with 18 seconds left in the game.
Price was crouched down on the play, and the puck squeezed through the minuscule five-hole he had showing. That goal goes in the "key save"/"he shoulda had that one" category, and Price knew it as he banged his stick in anger.
What separates an elite goaltender from a run-of-the-mill goaltender is the ability to consistently make that "key save" at key times. Price sometimes makes that save and sometimes lets it in. But let's not forget that he is only 22 years old. Give him a few more years and he'll get there.
Let's also not forget that the Habs did ultimately win the game and got two badly needed points and that is the most important thing to keep in mind.
2 - Ovechkin is a machine. With 42 goals and 88 points in 52 games, Ovechkin is simply dominating the league and man, is it fun to watch. Love him or hate him, you have to respect the awesome skills that Ovy brings to the table.
For me, the purest illustration of his complete skill set was on a goal last night that was called off. After Price made a great glove save and fell backward, the puck lay at Hal Gill's feet. Seizing the opportunity, Ovechkin simple leveled Gill with a huge body check that sent him flying into Price.
The result was that Gill, Price and the puck went into the net, along with Ovechkin. While the goal was ultimately waived off for interference, it shows how Ovy is also dominate in the physical aspect of the game. A true power-forward with lighting quick skating, a bullet of a shot and a keen eye for finding the open man.
He is simply the most dominant power-forward since Eric Lindros.
3 - Josh Gorges is a warrior. Early in the game, Josh slid to block a Mike Green bullet from the point and unfortunately blocked the shot with the back of his head.
As he lay motionless on the ice for a minute or so, flashes of Trent McCleary taking a puck in the throat came to mind.
Fortunately, Gorges was alright as he was eventually helped off of the ice by athletic trainer Graham Rynbend and Habs physician Doctor Mulder.
Gorges took the shot off his skull just behind his ear. The stream of blood running down the back of his helmet was evident as he was helped to the dressing room.
Josh is simply a warrior and has been the Habs unsung hero or "fourth star" for the last two years in a row. Never complaining, taking as much or as little ice-time as he gets, blocking shots, making smart defensive plays and being an overall leader on this team, Gorges doesn't get enough recognition.
It's unfortunate that it takes a scary incident like this for him to get noticed.
4 - Sergei Kostitsyn is rounding into form. With three more assists last night, SK74 now has six points (1G, 5A) over his last five games. It is no coincidence that Plekanec has four goals over that same stretch as Sergei is an excellent playmaker.
The more he plays with Plekanec the more his exceptional on-ice vision becomes evident.
Sergei has been through a lot this year with all his trade demands and demotions, but he is starting to look like a player who has learned his lesson. He seems to have checked his attitude at the door and the results are starting to bear fruit for the Habs. His resurgence is not a moment too soon as the Habs are being decimated by injuries.
Good on you, Sergei! Keep it up.
Standings and Next Game
The win moves the Habs back to three games over .500 with 29 wins. It also gives them 64 points in 61 games, good enough for sixth overall in the East.
As is usually the case, their hold on sixth is tenuous as Philly and Tampa—each with three games in hand—are both one point behind the Habs with 63 points. Just behind them is Boston with 61 points and three games in hand.
The Habs have one day off before playing two of their most important games of the season: back-to-back Friday and Saturday games against the Flyers. Two wins, and the Habs will start putting some distance between them and the bubble teams. Two losses and the Flyers will leapfrog over them while letting the teams behind the Habs catch up.
Should be interesting to see what the Habs have in store for us before the Olympic break!
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