With lightning in the forecast, the Montreal Canadiens managed to turn things around after the ugly performance the night before against the Panthers. In a reversal from the Florida game, the Habs gave up the first goal but then fought back with four unanswered goals… to finally come out with a 5-2 win.
Tampa Bay 1-0: Right off the bat, Rivet carries the puck deep into Tampa‘s zone… and then sends the puck towards the front of the net. Problem is, the pass is cut off and the Lightning get a 3-on-1 the other way. Afanasenkov comes in with speed off the wing and lasers it past Theo… and just like that the Habs are playing catch up before you’ve had time to get comfortable on the sofa.
Montreal 1-1: Just when you thought the Habs were in for another tough night, instead the early goal seems to wake them up a little. It starts with Ribeiro, who played despite a leg injury, who comes to Theodore’s defence when Taylor gives the goalie a few extra whacks after the whistle. Mike threw a few punches, but the next thing he knows Dingman has jumped on his back and Taylor sucker punches him while he can’t defend himself.
Tampa gets the extra minor penalty, Souray gets a quick shot off from the point… it hits Audette in front of the net and goes straight to Perreault who knocks it in the open net. Nice job by Audette of getting in front of the net, that’s the key to the play.
Montreal 2-1: 45 seconds later, the Habs take lead. This time it’s the 3rd line, who had themselves another great game, that goes back to same exact play. They do a good job of controlling the puck in the offensive zone, eventually Sundstrom gets it to Quintal at the point. He gets the shot off and it beats Grahame thanks to Dackell who is parked in front of the net, it seems so easy when they do the little things right.
Montreal 3-1: Another quick goal to start the 2nd period, this time it takes 10 seconds. Juneau wins the draw at center ice to Souray, and he banks it off the board at just the right pace to find Sundstrom who had slipped behind his defenseman at the blueline. He comes in uncontested on Grahame, and beats him with a nice wrist shot top corner glove side.
Now that’s how you start a period.
Montreal 4-1: Midway in the 2nd period the Habs add to their lead. While playing 4-on-4 Quintal and Souray do a good job of supporting the offense with Koivu & Bulis. Souray finds himself with the puck in the corner, he flips it towards the front of the net… it somehow bounces through a couple of players to Koivu waiting on the other side of the net. He kicks the puck up to his stick and slips under Grahame along the ice… a pretty weak goal to give up, he’s swiftly replaced by Khabibulin.
Tampa Bay 2-4: The Canadiens are content to sit on their lead in the 3rd period… and get outshot 19-8 in the process. It eventually costs them as an uncovered Andreychuck knocks in a rebound before Theo has time to cover it up.
Montreal 5-2: The Lightning pull their goalie at the end, Perreault intercepts a cross-ice pass… he moves it up to Koivu who returns the favour and Yannick scores in the empty net.
– Julien decided to take advantage of a rare 4-1 lead to bench Rivet in the 3rd period and give Komisarek some much needed ice-time. With the way Rivet was playing he would have been justified in doing so whatever the score would have been.
– After giving up a whopping 49 shots vs. Florida, Theo faced another 37 shots in Tampa. There have been many 30+ shots games lately, what happened to Julien’s vaunted defensive system? Now that the offensive crisis is over, they might want to focus on defence again.
– Dagenais was left out of the lineup tonight after having been pulled off the 2nd line during the Florida game. One wonders with the return of Audette, and soon Ward as well, whether he’ll find himself back in Hamilton soon.
– The bad call of the night: Perreault gets knocked into the goalie, and HE gets called for interference. It’s that much more frustrating for the Habs since they’ve watched the whole league run into Theo unpunished all year.
– Roy hit Rivet behind the net and held onto him until he accepted to drop the gloves. Langdon wanted to intercede but couldn’t as he would have been the third man in. Once the fight was over Langdon was still jawing at Roy, who decided to throw a piece of equipment his way. Langdon proceeded to land a few quick punches that sent Roy to the ice, and since Langdon had the presence of mind to do it with his gloves on he just got 2 for roughing and a 10 minutes misconduct. The Habs ended up with a 2 minute power-play out of all that.
Habs’ hero: There are a lot of candidates tonight… the 3rd line was flying once again, Sundstrom especially was everywhere on the ice. Then there’s Souray who continues to supply some much needed offense with 3 assists, on top of his physical presence. Tonight Quintal finally had himself a solid game, the first in a long time… and that’s really important given Breezer’s absence and Rivet’s continuing struggles.
Perreault won 81% of his faceoffs and scored on the PP, I don’t count the empty netter. I liked Ribeiro’s effort on a night where he clearly wasn’t 100%, especially the scrum he started in front of the net which got the ball rolling for the Habs. And there’s always Theo, another solid night for him… we’re so used to it we tend to take it for granted sometimes.
Habs’ zero: Rivet, it just seemed he couldn’t do anything right. When he left his position to join the offense and Tampa quickly took advantage to take the lead in the first minute, it seemed to kill his spirit. From that point on he had no confidence in his play, and it showed. From missed passes, falling on his own, getting rid of the puck, or trying to take control of the puck with one hand on his stick with Fedotenko just in front of him… Rivet just wasn’t there tonight. It’s all about confidence at this point, and for any of us who have been through it before it’s just painful to watch. Let’s hope he snaps out of it soon, because he can help this team when he’s playing well.
And what about Markov this year, he didn’t play badly tonight… but where’s the offense he used to create last year, or the nice plays to start the rush? He’s just invisible out there, for a player of his talent that’s just not enough.
Kilger again was completely invisible, falling for no reason on more than one occasion.
Remember how the 1st goal used to basically decide the Habs fate? Well the Habs scored the first two goals in Florida and lost, and now they give up the first goal in Tampa but storm back with four unanswered goals to win the game. What have they done with my Habs?
The Canadiens now host Boston on Tuesday, Brisebois is hoping he’ll have improved enough by then to be back in the lineup. Bégin & Ward might also be ready to return… and Julien might be forced to make a few difficult roster decisions if that happens.