Steve Begin had the flu tonight and was not supposed to play more than a few shifts, however the Canadiens player was the hero as he scored the winning goal and added an assist as Montreal beat the Rangers in New York by a score of 4-1.
It was a lacklustre affair, to be most polite, until the third period. Both teams seemed far more interested in cutting out the opposition’s ability to skate and the game resembled a contest from two years ago rather than the spirited games fans have become used to seeing. Even though there were attempts by either club with the two-man advantage, there was little that could keep fans awake – except perhaps the chocolate from early trick-or-treating.
The Canadiens were the walking wounded, on this night – or perhaps more specifie, they were the walking sick. Radek Bonk was scratched because of the flu, Begin was suffering, and Alex Perezhogin had precious few shifts because of it. To add to the suffering, Mike Ribeiro had a very sore leg and was struggling as well.
One positive note was the return of Niklas Sundstrom, back from a couple of weeks on the injury list. His return was most welcome as he, and linemates Begin and Jan Bulis, shut down Jaromir Jagr while playing five-on-five. Sundstrom earned a well-deserved goal when he potted the empty net marker to ice the victory – he’d rung one off the crossbar earlier in the game.
The scoring finally opened when Saku Koivu redirected a shot from the point by Craig Rivet while on the power play. After an great zone entry by Markov, the puck was moved across to Rivet who was at first credited with the goal.
Soon after it was a tic-tac-toe play from the Koivu line that saw Richard Zednik whiff from alone in front with the goalie struggling to get across the net.
The Rangers tied the game on yet another five-on-three when Jagr blasted home a shot from the high slot. Dominic Moore continued his mastery over the Canadiens assisting on the play.
Just over a minute later while the Canadiens were still short-handed, Sundstrom made a stellar play at the point and the resultant loose puck went to Begin who struck out towards the Ranger net. With Andrei Markov serving as a decoy, Begin roofed the puck giving the Habs the lead once again.
A slick play along the boards by Koivu started the play which resulted in the third goal for the Canadiens. A tape-to-tape pass to a lonely Alex Kovalev saw the puck tickling the twine once again.
There’s no rest for the weary, however, as tomorrow night the Canadiens welcome the travelling Panthers from Florida. With any luck, the team has slept well and will be looking less like zombies who are struck by the flu, however regardless, it will be all hands on deck as they look for their second win in succession.