The Montreal Canadiens failed to come up with any sort of offense until well into the game, ultimately losing to the New York Rangers 3-1. It certainly wasn’t pretty, and if you managed to stick it out for the entire 60 minutes, I commend you.
If you’re looking for the turning point of this match, look no further than Petr Prucha’s goal 2:53 into the game. Prucha got off a semi-slapshot that surprised Jaroslav Halak, allowing the puck to find its way through his five-hole. That goal seemingly deflated an already turtle’s pace Canadiens team.
Montreal didn’t really show many signs of life until late in the third period when they were awarded a 5-on-3 opportunity that lead to Sheldon Souray’s record breaking 19th powerplay goal this season.
If it looked like the Habs and Rangers were skating through sludge tonight, they were. Thanks to the circus’ visit to the MSG, the arena wasn’t up until a mere six hours prior to puck drop.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the poor ice conditions are no excuse for the Habs’ loss tonight. However, the team’s inability to find ways to adapt to the conditions and make smarter plays did hinder their chances greatly.
Too many times a player opted to pass the puck back to a teammate behind only to have the puck bounce along the bad ice and leave the offensive zone. When the Canadiens did try to simplify their game, they failed to win the battles along the boards and in deep to keep possession of the puck.
All in all, it was an easy game for the Rangers to simply sit back and wait for their chances while the Habs burned themselves out skating around in attempt to play catch up.
Henrik Lundqvist made the saves he needed to in order to keep the Rangers in the game. Montreal came close on the few times they got enough traffic in front of Lundqvist to create quality scoring chances. Montreal managed only a meager 15 shots over the first 40 minutes while the Rangers hit that total after the first 20.
Jaromir Jagr scored his 30th marker of the season when he was left completely alone in the slot. Jagr made things look easy as he snapped in the lone goal that Halak can’t really be blamed for.
Like Prucha’s goal in the first period, Marek Malik’s marker late in the second period fooled Halak. Malik’s second of the season also ended the 21-year-old’s reign of the net as Halak was replaced with Cristobal Huet to start the third period.
Of course, it wouldn’t be like Montreal to not have a goalie controversy heading into one of their most important regular season games to date. Coach Guy Carbonneau now has a very important decision to make going into Toronto on Saturday to play a game that could and will most likely decide which of the two makes the playoffs.
Does Carbonneau play Huet considering Halak’s poor play Thursday night in New York? Or, does he go with Halak who was instrumental in the team’s late season surge and gave them a chance to win each of the games he started over the last nine games?
Halak’s awful road record and inexperience may work against him. Huet played in big games for the Habs last season and the veteran netminder will likely be looked upon again to carry the Canadiens into the post season and throughout. Meanwhile, if Carbonneau’s decision to pull Halak in order to give Huet some playing time is any indication, Huet is the likely starter on Saturday.
There is some good news, though. The Toronto Maple Leafs failed to win their match with the New York Islanders, leaving them a single point back from the Habs. Considering that Montreal has more wins than Toronto, the Canadiens require only a single point to stay ahead of the Leafs. Thus, if the Leafs win the game in overtime or shootout, Montreal could still qualify if the New York Islanders fail to win their two remaining games.
Still, should the Maple Leafs beat the Habs in Regulation, the Islanders still have a shot at passing both Toronto and the Habs for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference should they win their final two games of the season.
Saku Koivu set a new career high in points when he picked up his 50th assist on Souray’s 26th goal. The goal, as mentioned early, set a new record for the most powerplay goals by a defenseman. You can bet that there will be little celebration regarding the new records as the team licks their wounds and focus their attention on Saturday’s colossal game in Toronto.