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This was a potential letdown game for the Canadiens tonight, who were quite happy with their winning streak and had a grudge match against Toronto on Saturday to look forward to. The Penguins even tried to play dead by not starting rookie phenom Marc-André Fleury in his home town, trying to keep Montreal‘s interest level at a minimum coming in.


It worked to a point, the Habs had a bit of a sloppy night, but the Penguins failed to capitalize on their mistakes and then Montreal took over in the third period to bring it home. Theodore was on his game yet again, and the power-play was on fire going 3 for 4 on the night.


Montreal 1-0: A power-play goal similar to Hainsey’s goal vs. Ottawa… Markov sneaked in towards the slot from the blue line with no defender picking him up, Perreault found him with a cross-ice pass. Markov tried to pass it to Ryder waiting on the other side of the net, the defenseman tried to block the pass and ended up deflecting it into the net himself.


Pittsburgh 1-1: Again, a play reminiscent of a play the Habs did vs. Washington, only they had it done TO them this time around. On the PP Audette had passed it to Ryder to the side of the net, who had attracted two defenders to him then slid it back to Perreault alone in the slot who scored. This time it was Mario, to Morozov at the side of the net, who then slides it back to Straka just inside the circle… one-timer that hits the post then the back of Theo’s pad and in.


Montreal 2-1: This was the goal that stood out tonight. It was the only non-PP goal of the night for either team, happened with 2 seconds left in the 2nd period, and was the game-winner. This play starts with Ribeiro accepting a Hossa pass by batting it down in mid-air as he enters the zone, he then puts a move on Caron but the goalie isn’t fooled. Ribeiro is forced to hang onto the puck until he’s past the goal and behind the net, but since nobody is checking him he turns right back to the front of the net but can’t score on the backhand. The puck then goes to the corner, Ribeiro interferes a little with his man to give Hossa the chance to get to the puck first. As soon as Hossa gets it he finds Zednik who had slid to the back of the slot unmarked, buries the one-timer past Caron.

Nice effort by Hossa, who really hustled to get to that puck in the corner and then made a perfect pass to Zednik. 


Montreal 3-1: Back to the PP goals, this one’s the prettiest of the night. Two cross-ice passes in a row: from Markov at the point to Ribeiro on the other side, to Ward at the side of the net… one-timer and in. Julien sees his decision to send out Ward instead of Hossa on the PP pay off, that’s the kind of thing that happens when a team is on a roll.


Montreal 4-1: Final goal of the night, on the PP of course. Souray shoots from the blue line, Ribeiro deflects it in from the side of the net. Ain’t life grand?




          It’s the second backup Quebec-born goalie in a row that has a tough night at the Bell Center. As I said last time maybe this change of fortune has more to do with the Canadiens having an improved team this year than anything else.

          Speaking of backup goalies, the Habs have just faced two in a row. One of the advantages of being a neglected team, as the Habs are, is that the other teams see them as a soft game in the schedule and elect to use their backup. That’s fine by Claude Julien, who’ll hope his team keeps taking the 2pts and saying “thank you very much” when that happens.

          It was nice to see the Habs being the physically dominant team out there, Souray pummelled Abid and then Jason Ward crushed Fata along the boards. The sadest part was that following that hit the Penguins’ tough guy went after Ward and Jason looked better than Dwyer ever did in a fight. That was my parting shot to Gordie who was sent to Hamilton today.

          The Juneau line played about 20 minutes because they had to tail Lemieux but also because the Habs again took way too many penalties. Guys like Ryder, Hossa, Audette all paid for it by getting only 12 minutes, Perreault 13 minutes.

           On the good side the only defensemen not playing 20 minutes were Breezer and Hainsey because they didn’t play the PK… which is perfect. Notice how Patrice hasn’t looked that bad this year, simply because he’s being used properly by the coaches. To be fair I have to mention that the reason the coaches can use him less is because we have a pretty solid top 6 this year, which wasn’t the case before.


Habs’ hero: Theodore got the first star, and he did play very well. But I’ll go with Mike Ribeiro who took over this game with his offense, participating in the last 3 goals and had the PP clicking. Offense was this team’s main concern coming in, so the ones who provide it are the heroes so far this season… especially given Koivu’s absence.

Honourable mention to Markov who had a strong game on both sides of the ice, and Marcel Hossa who despite only 12 minutes ice-time I noticed a few times for his passionate play.


Habs’ zero: Perreault and Audette. Both made a few lazy turnovers in the defensive zone that lead to open nets that the Penguins just missed on. If Pittsburgh had taken advantage as they should have, they could very well have won this game.

This is the kind of defensive letdown that will lead to losses on most nights but that nobody will mention since Montreal won.


Final Thoughts:


The Canadiens got lucky, they played a sloppy game but the Penguins didn’t make them pay for it. They took too many penalties once again, but they did a good job on the penalty kill and their PP was simply on fire. This was definitely a special teams victory.


In the end the Habs won another game they were supposed to win, and put another 2pts in the bank… placing them 1st in the conference even if it’s only 4 games in. The fact is many were looking at the Habs’ October schedule and thought they would have trouble winning any games, especially without Koivu. The first month was key to the Canadiens’ playoff hopes, and they’ve answered the bell so far.


Next up, the re-match against Toronto… no chance of the Habs looking past that game.