Nothing gets the blood flowing like an overtime game on a Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. And nothing chills it like a loss to those same Leafs.
As the Habs skated off the ice with their heads to the ground, one thing was clear – they failed to seal the deal with the score 3-1 in their favor late into the second period.
In the end, Paul Maurice’s good line juggling and a bad penalty in the extra frame to defenseman Francis Bouillon did Montreal in.
Mathieu Dandenault opened the scoring when he tapped in a puck that made its way from Brisebois’ shot at the point to the back boards and passed Bryan Smolinski standing in front of the net.
The marker was an important one for Dandenault who found himself flying low on the depth chart after an unspectacular training camp.
Blueliner Ian White would tie the game two minutes later on a point shot that found its way through Cristobal Huet.
The Canadiens would go up by two in the second period on goals by defenseman Andrei Markov and winger Andrei Kostitsyn.
Markov’s goal was a result of some excellent shorthanded play by Christopher Higgins who fought off a leaf defender before finding Markov open in the slot.
Maurice’s line changes paid dividends as Alexei Ponikarovsky scored twice after being placed on the first line with Mats Sundin.
The Leafs Captain was instrumental in his club’s comeback in both the physical and offensive departments.
With three assists, each coming on Toronto’s three unanswered goals to finish the game, Sundin showed no signs of age and continued to be a thorn in Montreal’s side.
Speaking of thorns, it was Tomas Kaberle who had the overtime winner for the Leafs Saturday night. Kaberle, who had 12 points against the Habs last season, fired home his first of the season at 3:26 of the overtime period.
There were plenty battles throughout the game as both teams picked up where they left things off in their last meeting – the final game of the 06-07 season.
One of the battles featured Michael Komisarek and the Leafs’ Captain. It began early on in the first period when the two collided and Sundin managed to get his stick up into Komisarek’s face causing the big defender to go off for repairs.
When he returned, Komisarek’s eye not only appeared black, but with a flare of revenge to boot. For the remainder of the game, fans on both sides of the Quebec-Ontario border braced themselves as Sundin and the Habs’ defenseman locked up shift after shift.
It was the second consecutive overtime game for the Montreal Canadiens, but this time they came out with only a single point. While every point counts, it always hurts to give up anything to a division rival in the consistently competitive Eastern Conference.
If the first two games are any indication, the Habs will find themselves in many more close games. While they make for entertaining matches, it’s never fun to end up on the losing end of a hard fought contest.
The Canadiens were good enough to win this match, which is an important aspect to take with them and remember as they prepare for next Wednesday’s game against Sid the Kid and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
More to follow…