Perhaps unbelievably, the Canadiens head home after a four-game road trip (during which they went 3-1) and a stretch of nine games in 15 nights (phenomenally 8-1) in a more impressive position in the standings than when they started. Each night they seem to find a way to win games, and tonight they succeeded again in beating the Might Ducks of Anaheim by a score of 5-2.
Having put themselves in such a position after their final game before the trade deadline, they turn things over to management, at least for the next few hours, to determine if there will be any last minute tweaks heading into what is closing in on a certainty for the playoffs. Over to you, Bob.
In what’s become standard for the Habs lately, they failed to play a full 60 minutes, but were extremely effective in the time they did work. During the time they failed to make much of an impression, at least there are groups of players, along with stellar goaltending, that keeps this team rolling. Tonight the first period was something of a disappointment, but escaping with a 1-1 tie after being outshot 17-5 proved once again that goaltending wins games.
Less than five minutes into the game, the Ducks quacked onto the scoreboard first when the defence collapsed to the net too easily and left the men in front open. Rob Niedermeyer scored his 11th to give the home side the early advantage.
It wasn’t long before Darren Langdon took the slow start into his own hands and delivered a TKO against Garrett Burnett in a quick bout in front of the
A few Duck chances later, Zednik broke down the left wing and with a few deft moves, swung past his coverage to send a zippy pass to the edge of the crease. A streaking Koivu tipped home his 13th of the year to tie the score and completely swing momentum to the Canadiens favour.
There were still the occasional miscue, as showcased by Rivet who juggled the puck at the blueline allowing the Ducks to break in three-on-one. Komisarek allowed only an angled shot with good positioning and Theodore gladly closed the door on the chance. Shortly thereafter, Koivu broke in one-on three and danced inside and out, almost roofing the puck on JS Giguere.
Shortly later, Dowd sent a cross-ice pass to Begin as the two broke in two-on-one, however a tip by the Duck defender caused Begin to swing the shot just wide. Moments later it was Dowd feeding Ward on a similar situation, however Ward whiffed on his attempt. Little did anyone know that Alexei Kovalev had passed on his powers of offence to Dowd for the few games he missed.
Late in the period, Koivu picked up the puck near centre ice while facing the Habs zone and, instead of passing it to Bouillon, as probably everyone in the rink expected, he pivoted and fired it to a streaking Zednik, just off the bench. Streaking in alone, Zednik slipped the puck through the Duck goalie’s pads to give the Habs the lead.
By the third, the Habs were dominating the game in many respects, and when Dagenais came off the bench and scored on a play that Ryder made almost all himself, it seemed to put the Ducks, fighting for their playoff lives, into a deep funk.
Just over six minutes later on the powerplay the Habs struck again. This time Ryder redirected a shot from Brisebois between the wickets and the Habs were getting Giggy with it sensing a win…
…which is probably why they were lazy just over a minute later, Markov sending a lazy clearance which was intercepted leading to a goal from Peter Sykora who was able to walk away from Koivu’s coverage.
This predictably produced an end to the game with the Ducks goalie pulled, but they couldn’t mount any kind of offensive except for one shot which Theodore somehow parried. Begin intercepted a pass at centre with ten seconds to go and salted away the win for the Habs, sending them home with 82 points and an eye on the prize.