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What a day it was as the Heritage Classic was played in front of 56,000 fans who braved the cold for 6 hours in order to experience this historic event. It started with the old-timers game, where the Canadiens surprisingly took it to the younger home team and outshot them 26-11. Ironically enough, the Oilers of old had to rely on what was simply a superb effort by their goaltending duo of Grant Fuhr and Bill Ranford to pull out a 2-0 win. And the goals didn’t come from Gretzky, or Messier, or Kurri… but Ken Linseman and Marty McSorley of all people; it was that kind of day. But for a collection of players in their 40’s and 50’s they gave the crowd a good show.


Then it was the current NHLers’ turn to take the ice. There was concern earlier in the day whether they’d be able to complete the game due to the dropping temperature, but they decided to go ahead and play. Theodore played with a toque over his mask and Souray started with his face so covered up you could barely make out his eyes… but he’d eventually take it off, probably after taking some ribbing from the opposition.

As for the game itself, the ice would get snowy and ripped up pretty quickly and it seemed to play right in the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. It negated the Oilers’ speed game, and the cold weather seemed to have both teams looking to avoid major contact… so the smaller & slower Habs could take advantage. Theodore was very good, especially given the conditions, and the Habs’ two snipers got going on the same night… that was enough for the Habs to come out with a 4-3 win in the NHL’s first outdoor regular season game.



Montreal 1-0: After a first period where the players were just trying to get used to the conditions, things opened up in the 2nd period. Brisebois takes a shot from the point. Ryder deflects it towards Zednik at the other side of the net and he pots it into the open net. Good job by Zednik, good things happen when you go to the net.


Montreal 2-0: This time on the power-play, Ribeiro finds Brisebois coming in from the blueline and he’s allowed to get a good shot off from inside the circle. It hits an Edmonton player but bounces to Perreault who just shoots it through a maze of players in front of the net; it somehow gets through and beat Conklin for a 2-0 Montreal lead.


Edmonton 1-2:  You know that with Montreal these days, they never make it easy on themselves. Kilger gets called for hooking, and as he’s coming out of the box the Oilers are pressing in a scrum in front of the net. Theodore makes the initial save, but Souray gets to the rebound first and wants to push it back to Jose so he can freeze it. Problem is Theo has no idea where the puck is at this point and Souray ends up pushing it into his own net, then looks up to the sky in disgust.


Montreal 3-1: The Canadiens re-establish their two goal lead minutes into the 3rd period. Perreault settles in behind the net, while Ribeiro tries to get himself open in front. Seeing that nothing is opening up Perreault decides to do it himself, he comes out from behind the net and scores on a wrap-around to the far corner as Conklin was concentrating on hugging his post.

Good job by Ribeiro who managed to create enough interference in front of the net to buy Perreault enough time to complete the play untouched.


Edmonton 2-3: But the Oilers don’t quit and keep coming. Jaret Stoll comes out from the corner and gets a shot off on Theodore, Quintal not only gets there a step late… but he runs into Theo more than Stoll. While the defenseman is tangled up with his goalie, Stoll is allowed to grab his own rebound and score.


Montreal 4-2: Montreal answers back again. Souray clears the puck out of his zone, and it slides towards Eric Brewer at the Oilers’ blueline. But given the snowy ice surface it slows down, allowing a rushing Zednik to get to it first. He tips it past a flat-footed Brewer, comes in alone on a breakaway, fakes a deke to the backhand which freezes the goalie and slides it past a beaten Conklin.


Edmonton 3-4: For the second time in the period, the Oilers resort to knocking Theo out of his net in order to beat him. The first time the goal was called off, but then Ryan Smyth knocks Brisebois right into Theodore who is sent sprawling and nearly loses his mask as well as his stick. By the time he can collect himself, get his mask back on correctly and get back to his net Steve Staios shoots it into the open net from the blueline.

A ridiculous goal to allow, Theodore still laying on his back just looks at the referee as if to say “are you kidding me?”. But thankfully it doesn’t affect the outcome of the game as the Habs manage to hang on from there and record the win.





          The Oilers might have done well to keep Fuhr and Ranford in nets, who were just spectacular in the old-timers game. But just as the team with most shots lost that game, the Habs reversed the roles for the one that counted in the standings and came away with the win despite being outshot 34-19. Julien jokingly suggested that getting outshot was part of the game plan to keep Theo warm and freeze up Conklin at the other end… it looks like that was the winning formula on this day. 

         Theodore not only had to brave the cold, but once again had to face oncoming traffic all night. One has to be concerned how much of a toll it will take on him over the course of the season. I think this would be a good time to give Garon a start, but they’ll probably wait until the back to back games next Friday and Saturday.

                  Ribeiro has now run his point streak to 7 games with an assist on Perreault power-play goal.

                  Gainey has hinted in recent days that he’s well aware this team needs some help up front, and suggested he was looking to move a defenseman in order to get that help. With Komisarek waiting in Hamilton reports are that Rivet is the one being offered to other teams.

                  The win caps off a successful 4 game road trip for the Habs, who managed to collect 5 of a possible 8 points against the likes of Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary and a 56k crowd in Edmonton. Ok, there was a loss to the Islanders to start it off… still .500 on the road given the way they were playing and the level of opposition is pretty good.



Habs’ hero: Theodore for being solid all night in impossible conditions. He mentioned after the game how it was impossible to slide from one side of the net to other given the bad ice conditions as the periods wore on. Not to mention having to pick himself up after being knocked down so many times during the game.

Obviously kudos to Perreault and Zednik, who did what they are paid to do… put the puck in the net. It was the team’s second 4 goal performance in the last three games. Let’s hope this means that scary scoring drought is officially over.


Habs’ zero: Today it goes to the Souray-Quintal tandem… who were the team’s top pair just a few weeks ago but have both struggled of late. In Souray’s case he’s still getting the job done physically, but it’s the little plays that he’s getting careless with and it’s costing his team goals. Against Vancouver it was clumsy clearing attempts, today he knocked the puck into his own net while trying to push the puck back to Theo. And what was with that bank robbers’ skiing mask he started the game with, aren’t you from Alberta Sheldon? You should be used to this.

As for Quintal, his lack of mobility and atrociously slow skating is more of a concern. He couldn’t keep up with Bertuzzi in OT and they scored the game winner on that play, then in Calgary Gélinas beat him to the net off the faceoff and netted the rebound with a minute left to win that game. Now tonight he was late covering Stoll and even ran into Theo allowing the Oilers’ 2nd goal. The fact is Quintal hasn’t been the same since missing a few games with an irregular heartbeat. Let’s hope he’ll find his game again soon, the key for him is to rely on good positioning and anticipation in order to make up for his lack of speed.

I’d also like to mention Bulis who continues to be content with carrying the puck into the zone, but then turning it over easily time and time again. As I’ve mentioned before, this guy is getting a free pass playing on the 3rd line where not much offense is expected… he’s capable of being much better than this offensively.



Final Thoughts:


The Canadiens and Oilers split the two games, and I think Montreal is quite happy with that trade off… they’ll collect the 2 point and be quite satisfied with their showing on this historic day. Even the old-timers showed a lot of pride in out-playing the Oilers of the 80’s, hopefully some of that pride has rubbed off on the Habs’ current edition.


All in all it was a great day for hockey in general, a well organized celebration of Edmonton‘s 25th anniversary in the NHL.


But this is no time for an emotional let down, as it will be the Vancouver Canucks who will be back for more after Tuesday’s 5-4 OT win… this time at the Bell Center.