Another solid effort for the Montreal Canadiens, as they stood toe to toe with red hot Maple Leafs all night… only to lose it in the last minute when Sundin’s centering attempt from an impossible angle deflected off Bouillon’s stick into the top corner, right over Theodore’s shoulder.
The Habs deserved a better fate, as they missed a chance to take the lead when Dackell missed a wide open net because of a bouncing puck prior to Toronto’s lucky goal. But it was not meant to be, and the Maple Leafs just keep rolling. The result is reminiscent of last week’s loss to Philly in which a veteran team on a roll managed to pull out an improbable win in the dying seconds… leaving the Canadiens with nothing to show for a valiant effort.
Montreal 1-0: After being completely dominated for the first half of the period, McCabe is called for a questionable penalty. After clearing the puck Toronto makes a bad change… Markov quickly takes advantage and pushes the puck up to Dagenais, who’s allowed to walk in alone and let a laser go from the top of the circle that beat Belfour glove side on the top corner.
Marchment made Dagenais pay a solid check just as Pierre let the shot go… but the damage was done, 1-0 Montreal.
Toronto 1-1: Ribeiro is called for tripping early in the 2nd period. From behind the net Tucker passes it to Nolan along the boards, then comes out in front for the return pass and knocks it past Theo before Bouillon knows what hit him. Bouillon simply forgot Tucker behind the net, since they were short one man he was not playing man-to-man… and didn’t think the player behind the net was a threat. He was wrong.
Credit to Tucker for timing the play perfectly, and to Nolan for threading the pass between Quintal’s skates right on Tucker’s stick.
Montreal 2-1: One minute into the 3rd period the Habs regain the lead. Rivet keeps the puck in at the blueline and just sends it towards the net… Belfour leaves a soft juicy rebound and an uncovered Ribeiro cashes in.
Toronto 2-2: Ribeiro is tripped up in the neutral zone and loses the puck, and Toronto heads on the counter-attack. Zednik forces Nieuwendyk behind the net but the veteran stays strong on the puck, comes out the other side and sends it in front of the net where an uncovered Wade Belak was coming in from the blueline and he buries it to tie the game.
Toronto 3-2: With less than a minute left, Sundin gains momentum in the neutral zone… he passes to Renberg who leaves it right back for him coming in full-steam along the boards. Sundin keeps the puck until he practically at the goal-line level in the corner and at that point he sends it towards the front of the net. In a really unlucky break for the Habs, the centering attempt hits Bouillon’s stick and deflects into the top corner over Theo’s shoulder.
A really tough break for the Habs, but letting Sundin gain momentum in the neutral zone untouched like that is just asking for trouble… in that situation with a minute left they needed to keep a body on him in the neutral zone.
– The Habs scored yet another PP goal tonight, and the Habs’ two most powerful shooter have something to do with that. Souray and now Dagenais give Montreal a different way of creating offense, other than the pretty passing plays… and it’s leading to a more effective offense in general.
– Dackell was left shaking his head after missing the open net late in the 3rd period, but it was a bouncing puck and that’s what made the shot go wide. To be fair, also in the 3rd period Toronto missed an open net of their own when Tucker shot towards an open net only to see it Souray’s skate and go wide.
– Theodore played despite the sore collarbone, and he didn’t let it show. He was solid all night, especially sharp in the game’s first 10 minutes as the Habs took some time to settle in and start playing their game.
– Recent call-up Benoit Gratton played his first game of the season for Montreal, and had a decent game… but was unable to slow down Sundin on the game winner. Actually he was just jumping on the ice as Sundin skated by and nevr had time to catch up… so that wasn’t is fault. Once again the Habs’ lack of size up the middle was very apparent all night long against the likes of Sundin, Nieuwendyk, and Antropov.
– Julien shortened the bench a little tonight, as Kilger only played 3:24, Langdon 2:41 and Komisarek 4:23.
Habs’ hero: Theodore came up big in a big game, despite being hurt. The very fact he insisted on getting back on the ice right away and wanted desperately to face the Leafs showed the kind of leadership you’re looking for from your #1 goalie.
Dagenais showed his shot is not just good for injuring his own goalie, it would be fun to see who between he and Souray wins the hardest shot contest this year. Ryder also had his moments tonight.
The defence, especially Rivet & Markov… had one of their better nights tonight.
Habs’ zero: Bouillon certainly has a hand in this defeat, as he forgot Tucker behind the net on the PP, then deflected Sundin’s shot into the net… but that second one was about bad luck more than anything else. For some reason Bulis kept falling for no reason all night, we’d like to see him not give up the puck so easily off the rush as he often does.
For the 2nd time in the last two weeks the Habs held their own against the Eastern Conference’s best and hottest teams… but lost both contests in the last minute after surrendering a lead in the 3rd period. The Canadiens can leave the arena with their heads held high, as they are slowly becoming a club that teams no longer look forward to playing against.
It’s just that on some nights despite a good effort, the opponent’s superior wealth of talent and size ends up being the difference.
Next up for the Habs back to back games on Monday against the Penguins, and Tuesday against the Capitals.