In the end, they lost the game in overtime, but the most important thing that came out of the Fleet Centre on this night was the single point they earned for tying the game in regulation time. The point clinches the playoff for them, only their second time in the past six years. And while it was a shame they couldn’t have had a win to celebrate, I think everyone on the club is happy to leave
The game started with a bang when Kerry Fraser – he of the perfectly coiffed helmet hair – called a penalty shot for Jason Ward when the Hab player was brought down in front of the Bruin net on a break. The showdown against probably rookie of the year Andrew Raycroft was a bit of a letdown when Ward easily beat the youngster with a forehand – backhand move that left Raycroft standing still until the puck had already ruffled the net.
The hockey wasn’t great in this one as both teams allowed numerous odd-man rushes and were giving up too many pucks on seemingly simple plays. It can only be hoped that if these two teams meet in the playoffs, there’s a little more cohesive hockey for viewers.
Jiri Slegr was unlucky not to have tied the game when his shot from the high slot rang off the inside of the post and crossed the crease behind Theodore. A little later on in one of the more bizarre moments in hockey, Raycroft almost put one in on his own net when he saved a first shot, then attempted to clear the puck from the air in front of him. Instead of hitting it with the broad part of his paddle, he instead knuckled the puck directly behind him where it caromed off the top of the crossbar.
Very early in the second the Habs did pull out a two goal lead when Ribeiro picked up the puck in his own zone, went coast to coast and showed brilliant patience waiting for someone to catch up with him. When that player finally got into position, there was no doubt surprise amongst viewers as speedster Stephane Quintal redirected the perfect pass into the Boston net.
One thing the Canadiens wanted to avoid was getting into penalty trouble, and they completely failed to do so later in the period, taking consecutive silly penalties. On the second, a silly hook by Komisarek, Gonchar got hold of Samsonov pass and rifled it past a completely screened Theodore. It was sweet reprieve for Samsonov who twice on the power play had missed open net opportunities.
At the end of the period and after the whistle, things got somewhat out of hand as Koivu cleared the puck only to be hit twice on the play, and in the ensuing scrum was jumped from behind by Travis Green who’d been agitating all night. For whatever reason, the mugging was left uncalled and because they failed to take control at this point, the refs lost control of the game into the third.
Early in the third it was Samsonov finally finding the back of the net, rather than its side, as he was left alone to corral a loose puck and tuck it behind Theo. It was a play where virtually every Hab had missed his assignment.
Then things descended significantly. While clearing the zone with the puck, Zednik was hit low by Axelsson in what seemed to be an almost knee-on-knee event which was a tripping play regardless. If the refs want people to believe they’ll call the rules in the playoffs instead of reverting back to the usual non-call system, the utterly failed on this night.
On the same play, Perreault, while taking a hit from Thornton, got his stick up in the face of the Bruin captain and the two subsequently scrummed briefly before being separated. Thornton’s response on the ensuing power play was to hammer Begin from behind into the end boards – and act that finally woke the refs from their reverie and sent Thornton to the showers early with a major and game misconduct. Begin left favouring his shoulder, but to the relief of Hab fans everywhere made it back later in the period.
On the way to earning the regulation point the only other main event of the third was yet another accosting of the Canadiens captain by Green who this time chose the bench area to commit his crimes. Should these two teams meet in the playoffs it will be an intense and hatred-filled series.
Overtime was one of the more bland ones of the year and when Samsonov slipped Koivu’s guard to win the game with a shot from the slot, perhaps it was more a sigh of relief that the game was over that was heard from the Canadiens bench.
The Habs get another extended break as they don’t play again until Wednesday when they take on the Islanders in New York. There are rumours that Souray could be back and that will go a long way to helping the Habs as they struggle to regain their form in time for the playoffs.