HabsWorld.net -- 

It was a costly win in Phoenix tonight for the Montreal Canadiens as they won the game 4-3 but lost new acquisition Alexei Kovalev after one single period with a suspected shoulder separation.  Saku Koivu led the Habs with a goal and an assist, and Andrei Markov continued his stellar play from the back to lead the Habs to the top.


The Habs lineup had some changes to it, of course, as Kovalev found himself on the first line with Koivu and Richard Zednik and the second newcomer, Jim Dowd, was placed on the fourth line with Jason Ward and Andreas Dackell.  While Kovalev had a tough start, Dowd scored the second goal while the team was shorthanded to make his first appearance a complete success.


The first period for the Canadiens was confused and lacked much synchronicity.  Passes were missed, as were assignments.  Their play smacked of over-confidence at times while facing a team that was struggling significantly, having won only two in their last 18 games.


The second period started a little bit better and the team looked to have regained a little of the ability to play a solid game that lacked in the first.  Disappointingly, Kovalev never returned to the ice, however the Canadiens weren’t too hampered as they were able to revert to the lines that had led to their recent strong games.


Finally, on the powerplay, the Canadiens managed to put one in the net as Pierre Dagenais deflected home an Andrei Markov shot to give the visitors a single goal lead. 


Only a minute later the Coyotes evened the score as Yanic Perreault failed to pick up a clearance pass and Daymond Langkow was the recipient of a juicy rebound.


The Habs started to get into some serious penalty troubles after that, starting with Dagenais who held on to an opponents stick for a quarter the length of the ice, then had the temerity to question the call. 


Fortunately for the Habs, a mistake at the blueline led to Andreas Dackell capitalizing and starting out on a two-on-one with Dowd during a penalty kill situation.  After waiting until the last moment and sending a slick backhand pass across to Dowd, he was able to raise his hands in triumph knowing he’d offered up on a silver platter the newcomer’s first goal as a Hab.


Late in the period, again on the powerplay, Koivu fired a centreing pass towards Perreault, but the pass never got there as it was deflected into the ‘Yotes goal.  It was Koivu’s 12th of the season and gave the Habs a two goal lead heading into the third.


Less than a minute into that third, Koivu gained the ‘Yote blueline, then dished off a pass to a streaking Markov.  He waited patiently as he curled in the corner, the put a pass on the tape of Zednik who roofed the puck to send the Canadiens up by three.


Game over?  Hardly.


The Habs once again seemed to fall apart and they stopped playing the game they need to play to be successful.  Too many men on the ice was another of the stupid penalties they took en route to a third period to forget.


During a four-on-four situation, when it looked like the Canadiens were getting control of the puck, a lack of concentration cost them dearly.  Instead of assuring control of the puck, Mike Ribeiro was skating up ice, his back to everyone else when Mike Comrie found himself alone with the puck in front of the net, cleanly beating Theodore through the wickets.


With a two man advantage, Chris Gratton was left alone in front of the Hab net and popped in an accurate pass to bring the Coyotes to within one.  Dackell was caught a little too high on the play leaving the Phoenix player alone against Theodore.


The finish was less than a thrill-fest, though, as the Coyotes failed to get the puck deep on Montreal and make something happen, thus giving the Canadiens a much needed victory.