The Canadiens were fired up Tuesday night, pulling off a 5-2 victory at home against the Phoenix Coyotes. Attempting to pull themselves out of a 3-7 slump, the overall level of effort was evident, especially after producing 18 shots in the first period. Hard work was evident in the checking assignments, in defensive zone turnovers to their favour, and during the scrums in the corners, to lead to controlling the puck and the momentum of the game. Even the special teams were effective, scoring two power play goals, while allowing none in 6 opportunities. When the Habs execute in this manner, they produce positive results. Perhaps the closed door team meeting on Sunday helped to motivate the team Tuesday. Tomas Plekanec described the event after last night’s victory. “We had a big meeting Sunday morning after that loss to Anaheim, and the coach let us have it. We knew that we had to do a better job, and tonight, we saw a lot of guys step up”. Plekanec certainly stepped up, as did several other Habs, in particular Chris Higgins, Niklas Sundstrom, Jan Bulis, Steve Begin, Sheldon Souray, Andrei Markov, Jose Theodore.
A few highlights were worth mentioning. First of course was the first goal of the game that Andrei Kastsitsyn scored, which was the first of his career. Fellow rookie Garth Murray did a yeoman’s job of working hard for control of the puck in the corner, which lead to a fine pass to the slot that Kastsitsyn buried. Hopefully, one of the Habs saved the puck for him. Tomas Plekanec’s goal, the second of the game was a fine backhand shot that hit the top corner of the net to the surprise of CuJo. It was an opportunistic goal, as the Phoenix defender blindly passed the puck from behind the net right on to Plekanec’s stick. Plekanec also assisted on the 5th Habs goal, a beautiful pass to Jan Bulis. Michael Ryder’s goal, the Habs 4th, was a fine shot just inside the post coming down the right wing, further evidence that his play has been improving over the past few games. The third goal belonged to Niklas Sundstrom, and it was a fortunate one. In the second period Sundstrom tipped a shot from well out in the slot, and Phoenix disputed the goal claiming that his stick was above the crossbar. The video replay staff took well over 4 minutes to review the goal, which was understandable as the television replays were not very conclusive. Eventually the goal was allowed, and the lucky break helped to stymie the Coyotes, who were outshooting the Habs 9-3 in the second period.
Wherever Wayne Gretzky goes, talk of players that could be playing for Canada’s Olympic hockey team follow, since Gretzky holds the title of executive director of the Olympic team. Media and fans around Montreal were buzzing about Jose Theodore in that vein. Jose’s play has been up and down so far this season, at times hampered by a groin injury that leaves fans wondering if he’s fully recovered. He played very well last night, and likely left a favourable impression on Wayne, outplaying his own goaltender Curtis Joseph.
RDS assigned the three stars as follows: 1. Sheldon Souray 2. Tomas Plekanec 3. Niklas Sundstrom
My Three Stars: 1. Tomas Plekanec 2. Jan Bulis 3. Niklas Sundstrom
Unsung Hero: Garth Murray