When interviewed prior to the game, Guy Carbonneau said his team shouldn’t have any difficulties getting motivated for the pivotal match against the Senators Monday night at the Bell Centre. With a win, the Canadiens would clinch a playoff birth, widen their lead on Ottawa for the division lead, and hold their spot atop the Eastern Conference.
Needless to say, the Habs did win, clinching a playoff birth all while giving them a seven point lead over the Sens for first in the division, and a three point lead over Pittsburgh for first in the East. I’m sure the New York Islanders have already been thanked for assisting in keeping the Crosby-less Pens down with a 4-1 win Monday night as well.
Montreal absolutely dominated the Ottawa Senators through the first two periods of play. The team finished their checks, skated, and frustrated the Sens in every way.
When the buzzer sounded on the first period, the Habs skated off with a 3-0 lead with two goals from Andrei Kostitsyn (24th & 25th) and another by Christopher Higgins (23rd).
After allowing three goals on 14 shots, Martin Gerber was replaced by Ray Emery in the second period. The often controversial netminder fared no better and allowed four Montreal goals in the second period.
Ottawa looked to have regained some momentum when Antoine Vermette potted his 19th of the season to make the game 3-1. However, Francis Bouillon notched hit second of the season to set off four straight goals for the Habs.
Andrei Markov would score his 16th of the season with the man advantage, followed 42 seconds later by Mikhail Grabovski’s third. Kostopoulos’ third short-handed marker of the season would cap off the Habs’ surge to provide the Canadiens with an unexpected 7-1 lead on the Senators heading into the third.
It was a night to forget for each of the goaltenders who saw action Monday night. Each period featured a goalie getting bombarded with shots and beat every which way.
While Carey Price was as good as he had to be through the first two periods, Ottawa found ways to get the puck behind him in the third, but more on that later.
Bouillon gave everyone a scare when he blocked a Cory Stillman shot in the third period. With Mike Komisarek out of the line up with a lower-body injury, another loss at the defense position would hurt the Habs down the stretch and into the playoffs. However, Bouillon soldiered on and returned to the ice after a brief visit to the dressing room. While he’ll likely sport some black and blue – who isn’t at this time of year? – for the next few days, there shouldn’t be any reason to believe he’ll miss any time,
I don’t know about you, but I had some flashbacks to that miraculous comeback 6-5 shoot-out win over the New York Rangers when Ottawa started popping in goal after goal in the third period.
Allowing four goals in the third period of a game isn’t exactly a habit Montreal will like to have heading into the playoffs. While the team has shown the ability to shut down opponents – most notably against the New Jersey Devils – it won’t be as easy a task without the services of Komisarek for the remainder of the regular season.
The Senators came out to third period with nothing to lose. They had already been embarrassed through two periods of play, and they’d need only to play hard for the final 20 minutes to set the tone for the eighth and final meeting of the season between these two clubs April 1st.
But good things happen when you have nothing to lose. I think Ottawa surprised the Canadiens, or at least caught them off-guard when they came out playing hard and hitting the net.
Dany Heatley closed in on 40 goals this season by slipping his 38th and 39th goals of the season by Price. Martin Lapointe and Jason Spezza also scored as Ottawa answered Montreal four straight goals with four of their own.
While Price was rattled in the third, he came out with the all important win to place the Habs in the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-2006 season.
The Habs will enjoy a three day break before heading on the road to face the Sabres on Friday and Leafs on Saturday – two teams currently fighting for one of the final playoff positions in the East.