Mathieu Garon played his first game in a long time tonight, and in the end he made the difference as the Canadiens somehow managed to beat the Kings 4-2 despite being outshot 48-24 and being outplayed considerably. The Habs now move 13 points up on
The Kings were unlucky not to take the victory tonight because, in amongst the barrage of shots were a series of absolutely sparkling saves from Garon. Add to that three dings off the post, and one can understand why they might feel somewhat robbed. Their intensity level was much higher than that of the Habs, but those opportunistic Canadiens made their few chances count on this night.
The line of Eric Belanger, Sean Avery and Ian Laperriere were stellar all night. They dominated whomever they faced and continually crashed the net. In fact, Avery knocked Garon flat a couple of times and managed to escape the wrath of the officials.
Which brings to the fore a very pressing point in today’s NHL, consistency in reffing. Lately the Habs have dealt with refs who called the obstruction and hooking penalties consistently, but tonight there were almost no calls at all. The Kings in particular were very effective at running picks and hooking Habs breaking out. It would have been interesting to see this one had real referees officiated this game.
While the ice was tilted towards the Hab net virtually all night, it was the Canadiens who got off the mark first when a pinching Markov kept the puck in the zone. That led to a tic-tac-toe play from Jason Ward to Jim Dowd to Steve Begin, where the last popped the puck behind a stretched Christobal Huet.
It wasn’t long after that a very annoyed Saku Koivu hammered his man to the ground, thus keeping the puck in the zone. After the Habs had made a few changes, Mike Komisarek fired a shot which was deflected in front and eventually landed on the stick of Yanic Perreault who took a few whacks before sliding home his 12th of the season.
Late in the period, on a play that Craig Rivet would surely love to have back, Eric Belanger was left completely alone at the side of the net and scored while easily evading Rivet’s checking.
With a little less than five minutes to go in the game, some hard work by the Habs top line resulted in a neat chip pass from Perreault to Richard Zednik who, with second and third efforts, managed to hammer home his 22nd of the year. Despite the Habs holding on for the whole period, they managed to have a 3-1 lead.
Trent Klatt cut that lead to one goal when he hit his own rebound in from the edge of the crease after the Habs had been sent a man short in the final minute because Garon had accidentally sent a puck into the crowd. The Kings had also pulled their goalie at this point, so they were working with an extra two skaters.
However, the comeback was short and unsatisfactory as, just seconds later, Zednik slotted in his second of the night into an empty net.
The Canadiens now head to