Overtime Heartbreak

HabsWorld.net -- 

The Canadiens came out with the short stick tonight in Montreal as the Lightening scored a quick overtime winner to push their lead in the series to 3-0.  Brad Richards picked up his own rebound and banked it in off the back of Jose Theodore only 1:05 into the extra frame to put the Habs backs against the wall.


It was an entertaining game, however, and by the end you were assured that each player had left virtually everything they had on the ice.  The Canadiens were all over Tampa for much of this one, and except for a few silly mistakes, the game would have been theirs. 


The crowd was also in this one from the drop of the puck through Saku Koivu’s opening hits right down the final goal.  They were boisterous and their singing was in fine form as they willed the home side on.


The opening period was dominated by the Habs, particularly along the boards, as they pasted their opponents with an intensity spurred by adrenaline.  Only an outstanding save by Nik Khabibulin near the end of the period on Richard Zednik allowed the Bolts to escape with the score even.


The second brought much the same for the first third of the period.  Michael Ryder was stopped brilliantly two times in succession early on and a Niklas Sundstrom pass to a streaking Steve Begin forced Khabibulin to hold the fort one more time for his troops.


When the Habs went on the power play, there was a sense that this might be the time when the Habs broke the game open.  Unfortunately a poor pass from Sheldon Souray sent Corey Stillman in alone on Theodore.  While he was unsuccessful at burying his opportunity, he was offered a second chance when Souray pinched wrongfully and left the Bolt alone near centre.  Stillman’s goal silenced the crowd.


It didn’t take long for Montreal to respond, however.  Less than a minute later, still on the power play, Alex Kovalev, a dominant force throughout the game, deflected an Andrei Markov shot past the Tampa goaltender to tie the score.  The camera’s rocked under the wave of enthusiasm at the Bell Centre.


It was only a few moments later, though, that they were silenced once again as, this time with Tampa on the power play, the Bolts moved into the lead again.  From the blue line, Brad Richard fired a shot on net and somehow the puck wormed its way through Theodore – surely a goal that the Montreal goalie wants back.


If some were expecting a panicked Montreal team to be unable to respond in the third, they were completely incorrect.  At about the halfway point, Craig Rivet took a shot at goal from the point which was deflected.  While Khabibulin made the initial save, his original momentum took him out of the net and the rebound was picked up by Ryder, who shovelled it in to tie the game.


The Ghosts seemed to be in full spirit when Patrice Brisebois received the puck from a faceoff in the Tampa zone with less than four minutes remaining in the match.  Somehow his weak half-shot half-pass made it through the tangle of legs and sticks and hit the far post then the near post before burying itself in the cage. 


All good things must come to an end, though, and this version of the Canadiens, picked by some to finish dead last overall, finds its backs against the wall here in the second round.  A goal with less than 20 seconds left in the game by Vince Lecavalier sent the game into the overtime where Richards finished them off.


Despite the sour end, there should be few heads hanging after this one.  The Canadiens played, and outplayed, the Bolts for large parts of this game, and while the result wasn’t there, the team put in a very solid effort.  Save for a few mistakes, this one could have easily gone Montreal‘s way. 


Game four on Thursday will give a glimpse into the character make-up of this club.  Although, in some respects it cannot be questioned.  For a team picked to finish dead last, they’re playing an awful lot of extra hockey.

Overtime Heartbreak

HabsWorld.net -- 

Despite being the better team, the Canadiens lost to the Bruins by a score of 4-3 in double overtime when Glen Murray picked up a loose puck caused by a Montreal collision and beat Jose Theodore on a breakaway.  Despite a valiant effort, particularly by the line of Saku Koivu and the defence of Andrei Markov and Craig Rivet, it was an unfortunate set of circumstances which eventually cost the winning goal.


After making a solid defensive play, Souray saw the loose puck picked up by Koivu at the near boards and his cross ice pass hit the tape of Alex Kovalev.  This latter turned across the blue line but was clipped by a slash across the wrist which caused him to double over with pain and loose control of the puck.  When Souray made a mad dash to regain control, he failed to see Kovalev and crashed into the ailing Hab sending the puck free.  Murray made quick work of the loose puck.


Claude Julien will wonder how big a downer the end result will be despite his team dominating much of the game.  For long stretches in the first and second, as well as most of the third and two overtime periods, the Canadiens were the better team.  They had chance after chance, particularly the line of Koivu, Kovalev and Zednik, but on each attempt were thwarted by Andrew Raycroft.


Canadiens fans, in their haste to place blame on the Habs scorers, might want to hearken back to two years ago when Jose Theodore stole a series.  It seems Montreal is on the other end of the rope in this playoff round.  Certainly, Theodore ahs been anything but spectacular since the playoffs started.


While the game started in Boston‘s favour, the Habs slowly wrested control from the Bruins and began attacking more and more.  This was not, however, before the Bruins could exact a little revenge on the Habs for the miserable acting display offered by Mike Ribeiro in the last game.


Early in the first Markov was completely flattened by Joe Thornton with a completely legal check, but which caught the Montreal defender with his head down.  Markov spent quite a few moments on the ice and there was significant concern – particularly of a potential concussion – before he managed to pull himself back into the game.


After that, the rest of the first belonged to the Habs, and they scored very quickly to give themselves the solid start they needed.  Of all people, Mike Ribeiro was the recipient of a series of half misses while he was posted in front of the Boston goal when he put the Habs up by one.  First Mike Ryder miscued on a pass to Pierre Dagenais, yet the puck somehow made it.  Then the latter fired a shot which merely bounced toward the Boston goal.  When Ribeiro managed to deflect the shot into the far post, pandemonium ensued from the capacity crowd.


Boston clawed back late in the period when Jim Dowd lost Mike Nylander and the Bruins’ low percentage shot somehow eluded Theodore.  It was yet another goal that the Habs goalie will surely have nightmares about this evening being yet another goal that should have been easily stopped.  It’s the kind of gla that’s become common with the Hab goalie unfortunately – and the sort of goal that seems on its way to costing the Habs the series.


Montreal did answer back just before the period was up, however, when Kovalev found the puck in the crease and slid home his third of the playoffs to give the Habs a one goal lead heading into the second.  Dowd did all the work for the goal, entering and circling the Boston zone, before the fortuitous Kovalev scored.


The second started with a bang for Montreal when Jason Ward out-worked two Boston players and had the puck go to Ribeiro who once again profited with his second goal of the night. 


The enthusiasm for the two-goal lead was tempered somewhat when Stephane Quintal, in going for the puck in front of the Boston net on a sweet pass from Mike Ryder, was hooked to the ice and crashed heavily into the boards.  While he came back to play for the rest of the second, he missed the third and overtime with a suspected arm injury.


After a series of chances that were saved by Raycroft, the Bruins capitalized and scored another weak goal on Theodore.  This time, after a failed clearance by Jan Bulis, Jiri Slegr fired a shot from the point that somehow went through the Hab goaltender. 


The Habs and Bruins entered the third without captains as the two held something of a dust up late in the second as each used his stick liberally on the other.  While Boston may have been disappointed in losing Thornton, it was the Habs who lost out more on the exchange, as the Canadiens captain has significantly outplayed the Bruins captain.


Montreal almost completely dominated the third, particularly the captain’s line, as they fired shot after shot and had chance after chance on the Bruins.  It was only a simply awesome Raycroft that kept Boston in a game that should, by all rights, have gotten out of hand on the scoreboard.  Surprisingly, the Habs were awarded a five-on-three when penalties were called that normally would have been overlooked.  Sadly, impatience as well as a little poor luck left the Habs without a goal.


With the goalie pulled and only about thirty seconds on the clock, the Habs won a defensive zone faceoff but lost possession of the puck.  Mike Knuble was able to push away his checker in front of the Montreal net and score the tying goal to send the game to overtime.


The extra frames were almost completely dominated by the Koivu line who, every time they were on the ice, had a scoring chance but could not capitalize against the stingy goaltending provided by the Bruin net minder.  At one point Zednik hit a post, and Koivu twice had shots from the middle of the slot.  Kovalev also had a shot from the edge of the crease that Raycroft managed to save with his posterior. 


It was against the run of play, therefore, that saw Boston scoring the winning goal and sending the series back to Boston up by three games to one.


Montreal certainly can feel no shame as they’ve had at least an equal right to winning each of the last three games.  They’ve lost two in overtime and won the other, and on both the losses, they can look back at the one player they should be able to count on and wonder ‘what if?’


The series isn’t over yet, though, and Montreal has certainly proved they can compete with these Bruins.  It’s all on Julien’s shoulders now to pull the best from the Habs and see if he can force a game six back in the Bell Centre.

Overtime Heartbreak

HabsWorld.net -- 

The youngest player in the NHL was the hero in Boston
as Bergeron scored the overtime winner to put the Bruins up by two games to
none.  At the very least, fans of
the Canadiens should be pleased that their team showed up and competed with the
Bruins, though in the end it was two silly errors that cost a potential


The game was played at a very high intensity –
thankfully on the part of the Canadiens – and was punctuated repeatedly by major
league hits from both sides.  As is
typical when the Bruins and Habs meet, the hatred is plainly evident, and this
night was certainly no exception. 
Led by Begin, the Habs hammered Boston repeatedly, the Habs feisty number
22 eventually landing a massive open ice hit on Nylander near the mid-point of
the third.


There were tense moments for Julien in the first when
the Habs seemed to come out as slowly as they finished game one, looking like a
team that lacked concentration and was unwilling to win the one-on-one
battles.  Fortuntely on this night
they did manage to wake up, and after half the first period, they were playing
at the level of the Bruins.


One point of concern that will haunt Julien until
game three is the complete lack of production and consistency from the power
play, which on this night was simply atrocious.  Despite having multiple chances in the
first period, they barely managed a shot, let alone offering any sustained
pressure.  Simply, Boston completely
out-worked the Habs when the Habs had an extra man.


There were some other small points that will have to
be examined before game three, including the poor timing of pinches by
defenders.  On three occasions the
Bruins broke in on two-on-one in the first alone.  The third of these resulted in the
Bruins first goal.


After stealing the puck in the neutral zone, Samsonov
slapped the puck off the boards to Bergeron, and the youngster then advanced
deep into the Hab zone with Nylander against a sole Montreal defender.  He flipped the puck across the ice and
Nylander buried it past a sprawling Theodore to put the Bruins


The second was the high point for the Habs in this
game, and in the series to date. 
They dominated for stretches at a time and they created sustained offence
and pinned the Bruins deep more than a few times.  More than once the line of Koivu, Zednik
and Kovalev (moved to the first line for this game), held the play in deep and
were effective at creating solid scoring chances.  They forced Raycroft to come up with
some very good saves.


Finally, near the end of the second and while on a
two man advantage, the Canadiens managed to beat Raycroft.  Kovalev sent the puck from the right
point down low to Koivu who immediately sent a one-time pass out into the high
slot to an advancing Brisebois. 
This lasered home a perfect shot to even the score at one and inject the
Habs with even more confidence.


The third started out very well for the Habs as again
they dominated the opening moments deep in the Bruin zone.  Julien, finally seeing more of what he
wanted from Kovalev, actually double shifted him once or twice. 


Despite some heated action, however, the period ended
with the score tied up at one and the teams headed to overtime for the first


Overtime was disappointingly short, however, as
Bergeron took a pass at centre, skated around one defender and skirted two
others before sending a relatively harmless looking wrist shot at the net.  Theodore completely misplayed it,
though, and the Bruins swarmed the rookie as the fans went


The Canadiens now head home to host the next two
games against the Bruins at the Bell Centre.  If they produce the same effort as they
did in the final two regulation periods in Boston, they will give themselves
every chance of winning.  With a
little work on the power play and a strong start to the game, Montreal has no
reason to think they won’t see the Fleet Centre at least one more