What started out as yet another painfully slow affair for the Canadiens turned into one of the most exciting finishes before Richard Zednik hammered home his 19th of the season in overtime to propel the team to its first victory in four. With the Habs picking up two vital points in the standings, they move three points ahead of the Islanders.
Patrice Brisebois broke his 65-game goal drought and added an assist in what was probably his best offensive game of the season. His goal, while not the show-stopper variety, nonetheless gave the Habs some life after falling behind by two.
The Canadiens coaching staff will be breathing a sigh of relief after watching the Habs come back after going down 2-0 against a solid defensive club. More importantly, after the first half of the game where they continued to look as poorly as they have for the last week, they finally turned a corner and started putting in some consistent effort and were thus rewarded.
Unfortunately, the penalty kill continued to struggle, and during their first attempt, the Wild scored on a completely screened Matheiu Garon with a shot from the point. Quintal, having failed to clear the obstruction in front, served as a double blind for Garon, who remained motionless in the butterfly as the puck whistled by.
Early in the second three Montreal forwards were caught off guard as Brisebois failed to keep the puck in at the point and were therefore caught flat-footed as the Wild broke out with speed. Michael Ryder was a step behind his mark who’s one-timer put the Wild up by two at the 5:07 mark.
Things continued to look much as they had during the rest of the losing streak as simple passes were missed and the Habs showed a lack of passion and concentration. Certainly, had many turned off their televisions, it would have been completely understandable.
However, after the TV timeout at about the ten-minute mark of the second, the Habs started to look like they had more jump, and they were suddenly putting more pressure on the opposition defence than they had in games.
The fourth line brought the first reward when Darren Langdon, who’d already been in a fight in the first, tapped a pass back to Brisebois after a faceoff in the Wild zone. The shot taken was certainly not his most powerful, however it had eyes as it found a way though a crowd and Dwayne Roloson to bulge the twine at 14:12.
Langdon did not ride his stick a la Tiger Williams on only his second point of the year, though he would have been excused if his enthusiasm had taken over.
Late in the second, Garon made a weak clearing attempt after leaving the net, and it was only the inside of Quintal’s skate that stopped the Wild from regaining their two goal lead. With many fantastic saves all night, including a breakaway attempt by Sergei Zholtok, his replacement of Jose Theodore was a success, however one of the areas where he still needs work is his passing.
The Wild were only hanging on throughout the third as wave after wave of Canadiens attacked Roloson. Fortunately for the Wild, they are a strong defensive club and are very good at keeping the play to the outside, but it was only a matter of time before the Habs evened the score.
Just short of the six-minute mark of the third, Brisebois picked up the puck at the point and, instead of taking a shot, fired a low and hard pass to Mike Ribeiro, posted just to the side of Roloson. His tip past the Wild goalie tied the score.
From there on out, the Habs played they same style game they had during their long streak of play just after the Christmas break and were only thwarted by some tremendous goaltending on the part of Roloson. Twice Michael Ryder had turn-and-shoot occasions where he forced excellent pad saves.
Later in the frame, Claude Julien changed his lines somewhat in an effort to preserve solid defensive play. Jason Ward was put on Ribeiro’s wing, Chad Kilger was moved from the fourth to the checking line, and Josef Balej, despite some really strong play, was essentially benched.
Overtime was a spirited affair with both teams having numerous chances, though the better ones went to the Wild early on. Finally, with less than thirty seconds left, Ribeiro found himself circling the Wild net and finding a wide open Richard Zednik high in the slot. Zednik had enough time to stop the pass, tee it up, then fire a laser home for the winning goal.
Hopefully the Habs can take the solid play from the second half of this game back to the Bell Centre for a Saturday afternoon game against the arch-rival Boston Bruins. Certainly, if they fall back into their bad habits, it could be a long Super Bowl weekend.