Tomas Plekanec’s goal with under two minutes in the second period marked the turn around for the Montreal Canadiens who had been trailing 3-1 to the Bruins. Montreal would score four more goals in the third period on route to a 6-3 comeback win in Boston. Christopher Higgins also had a strong night by picking up four points, while Jaroslav Halak continued to shut the door when it mattered with his third straight victory.
Breaking in unattended, Plekanec was able to get a good shot on the Bruins’ goalie but Thomas stacked the pads and made the save. However, thanks to his great hockey sense, the sophomore was able to retrieve his own rebound and pop the puck over Thomas for his 18th goal of the season. Andrei Kostitsyn and Mike Komisarek drew assists on the goal that brought Montreal within one.
With the belief that they were back in the game and could potential win, the Habs came out strong in the third period. Eighteen-year-old Phil Kessel made a rookie mistake when he hooked up Andrei Kostitsyn in the offensive zone. The penalty proved costly because with just three seconds left in the two-minute powerplay, Mike Johnson one-timed his first point in six games. Plekanec and Higgins picked up assists on Johnson’s 11th of the season.
With the game tied at three, Montreal continued to apply the pressure and were rewarded with three more goals before the final buzzer.
Maxim Lapierre, who spent most of the second period on the bench after a terrible first period, proved Carbonneau a genius when he made the most of being reinstated into the shuffle by scoring his fifth of the season. Mark Streit fed Lapierre and the center managed to roof a snap shot from in close right over Thomas’ left shoulder.
Christopher Higgins was the fifth of six different goal-scorers on the night when he completed a wrap around. The goal marked the second straight season that the 23-year-old has scored 20 goals or more. It is possible that, with seven games remaining in the season, that Higgins ties or betters the 23 goals he scored in his rookie season last year. Considering his newly found success with Plekanec and Kostitysn, former teammates in Hamilton, Higgins should have plenty of opportunities to match the feat.
With less than seven minutes remaining and a two-goal lead over the Bruins, Michael Ryder was sure to remove any doubt that Montreal wouldn’t win this game. With Marco Sturm off for charging, Saku Koivu got the puck to Ryder who would tie Sheldon Souray for the team lead in goals by firing a bullet over Thomas’ shoulder.
The Habs’ porous defensive play cost them during the first half of the game, allowing Boston to take a 3-1 lead.
Kessel was the first to capitalize when he was left alone to walk out in front of Halak. The goal was Kessel’s 10th of the season. The goal came with only 2:09 on the clock, not the way the Habs expected to begin such an important match regarding their playoff hopes.
Mark Mowers, who assisted on Kessel’s goal, tapped in his fifth of the season on a back-door play to put Boston up 3-1 in the second after Andrei Markov and Sturm exchanged goals in the first.
Sturm would, who was a key part of the trade with San Jose that saw Joe Thornton go to San Jose, would be stopped cold on a breakaway by the Habs’ rookie goaltender Halak. The 21-year-old netminder from Bratislava, Slovakia actually had to make about three saves on the play as Sturm attempted to poke in his own rebound.
With four shots in the second period alone, Sturm wasn’t done there. The 28-year-old was anxious to add to his 25th goal of the season and would actually go on a second partial breakaway, but once again Halak stood strong in order to keep Montreal in the game.
Halak made 32 saves for his sixth win of the season, and third straight. It is the second time since being called up from the Hamilton Bulldogs that Halak has won three straight matches. He will surely get an opportunity to make it four straight for the first time Saturday night when the Habs host the Washington Capitals.
Alex Kovalev was on the ice for all three Bruins goals and finished the game with a minus-3, the worst among skaters for both clubs. Though, the veteran deserves some credit for his hard work on the penalty kill.
With time ticking down on Andrei Kostitsyn’s penalty for holding late in the first period, Kovalev dived down in order to swipe the rolling puck away from the Bruins’ defender at the Habs’ own blueline. However, you have to think that Kovalev was hoping he could deflect the puck to Kostitsyn as the rookie exited the box, potentially setting him up for a breakaway. It didn’t pan out, but most cheered on the 34-year-old for his defensive heroics.
Kovalev later used his offensive instincts in attempt to help Montreal to their 18th shorthanded goal. Francis Bouillon was in the box for high-sticking when Kovalev blew by Chara, stole the puck, and moved in on Thomas. Chara used his long reach to his advantage and was able to prevent Kovalev from getting a quality shot off. The good news was that Chara’s desperation drew him a penalty and thus negated the Bruins’ powerplay.
The Habs walked away from this one with the two points, two key points if the team plans on winning the race for a final playoff spot in the East. The race itself, though, didn’t get that much easier for Montreal. All the teams currently bundled up around the final positions managed wins tonight.
The New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, and Tampa Bay Lightning picked up the full two points along with the Canadiens. However, the Habs were able to jump from 10th to ninth in the Eastern Conference because the Toronto Maple Leafs did not see action Thursday night.
While Montreal is in good position because they have more wins than those teams which sit closest to the eighth spot, the Canadiens have fewer games remaining. It is absolutely critical that the Habs continue to win so that when their opponents begin to make up the difference in games played, Montreal doesn’t find their selves out of the race.
1. Tomas Plekanec (1G, 2A, +1)
2. Christopher Higgins (1G, 3A, +2)
3. Marco Sturm (1G, +1, 6 Shots)