A day after the second fight this season during Habs practice, the Canadiens played with the fire and intensity they’ve desperately been lacking to dismantle the Calgary Flames 4-1. It’s the kind of play that’s been lacking for weeks on end, and unsurprisingly, when they finally found it, they capitalized.
It was a dominant first part of the first period that saw the Habs take the lead when the third line, led by Steve Begin following what can only be assumed as more injury trouble for Joe Juneau, completely out-played the Flames down low leading to Niklas Sundstrom picking up a loose puck and beating Mikka Kiprusoff. In what would be a show of things to come, the Habs went to the net with authority, on this particular play Begin even contacting the Flame goalie.
The rest of the period was played fairly evenly between the two teams, with a few good chances going each way. Kiprusoff was a giant in the Flame net and Mathieu Garon was strong for the Habs. Only a brutal gaffe at the Calgary blueline by Patrice Brisebois allowed the Flames to get on the scoreboard.
While trying to enter the zone, Brisebois decided to try a cross-ice pass rather than sending the puck in deep. Jarome Iginla picked off the attempt and went coast to coast, firing a laser over the shoulder of Garon.
The fisticuffs at practice brought the typical reactions from the Bell Centre crowd. Each time Saku Koivu touched the puck there was a chorus of boos, but after a time, a small section of the crowd began booing Mike Ribeiro as well. Time will tell whether or not Bob Gainey comes out and challenges the ‘yellow’ fans again.
The second was a case of increasing Montreal chances. Finally, at about the twelve and a half minute mark, Pierre Dagenais, brought back to the lineup after sitting out the previous two games, poked a rebound past Kiprusoff to put the Habs ahead for good.
Late in the second on a powerplay some extremely strong work by the Habs led to a third goal. Richard Zednik and Mike Ryder both won battles in the corner and the latter fed Markov who’s cross-ice pass found a lonely Brisebois. His rifle sent the Habs up by two going into the third.
Whereas recently the Habs would collapse in the third period, tonight nothing of the sort occurred. In fact, for the first time in a long time they maintained the pressure and maintained a strong attacking style of play. Despite a few chances which Garon corralled, the Habs defended very well.
Late in the game and with Kiprusoff pulled, the Habs managed an empty net goal to seal a well-deserved victory. Dagenais again sent the puck in over a sprawled defender and for the first time since before the All-Star break, the Canadiens tasted victory.
Two very pleasing points can be taken from the game other than the victory: Ryder was dominant for most of his shifts and Mike Komisarek is starting to show why the Habs made him a seventh overall pick.