Hockey purists may not like them, but even those fans have to agree that, despite their objections, the shootout gets everyone on their feet. Tonight, from a script directly from Hollywood, Sydney Crosby was given the nod by his coach to take the last shot against Jose Theodore, and his great move offered an open cage to score the winning goal.
In reality, the best team on the night won the game, and they probably should have won in regulation time. By securing a point, the Canadiens can call themselves thieves of the highest order on a night when their effort was middling at best.
The two biggest positives coming out of this one included an inspired effort from Andrei Markov and a workman-like effort from Michael Ryder. Other than these two, the rest of the Habs were ordinary to painful.
One who had to deal with more pain that just his play on the ice was Sheldon Souray who took a bullet off the foot and had to leave the game. Also among the walking wounded was Saku Koivu, excused from practice because of injury this morning. Excuses, though, are for losers.
One issue that seems to be recurring happens to be the lapse of judgement. Whether by taking a bad penalty or by, most inexcusably, having too many men on the ice, this year’s Canadiens has a tendency to skate to the penalty box far too much. Against a team like the Penguins, that’s a killer.
Crosby was the architect of the first goal as his cross-ice pass on the power play was deflected off the skate of Francis Bouillon past Theodore.
Near the end of the period it was the turn of Mario Lemieux to score on the power play. This time, camped in front of the Montreal net, two defenders were unable to stop the superstar from using his reach and skill to redirect a pass from the side boards past the Canadiens goaltender, who did have a very solid game.
In fact, everything seemed to be proceeding at half speed, particularly in the early second when Montreal looked more like an ECHL club (with apologies to those clubs who can string together a couple of passes in succession). The Habs only seemed to come to life when Alex Perezhogin was sent on a breakaway – which was saved – on which he was hooked. Perhaps a little anger was what the Habs needed.
The Canadiens weren’t without their chances in this one. Radek Bonk, in particular, had Jocelyn Thibault at his mercy numerous times, but couldn’t find the back of the net. The Canadiens also hit at least three posts. Still, despite these chances, they were just not up to the task tonight.
Their first goal, scored on the power play late in the second, was scored on something of a broken play. Rivet, after taking a lousy pass, fired a weak shot that was off the net. Somehow, though, a Pens defender managed to deflect it on net and past the sprawling Pittsburgh goaltender. Despite the series of bad play, Montreal still managed to get on the board.
The RDS crew had a microphone on Crosby, and his sound byte, offered at the beginning of the third, perhaps best summed up the Canadiens night. “Just look for your forward, he’s sleeping a lot.” While we’ll never know for certain who this player was, it could easily have been one of many. Certainly Alex Kovalev and Richard Zednik need to look in the mirror.
Once again, the Canadiens managed to tie this one up late to come out with their seemingly requisite point these days. After receiving a wonderful pass from Markov, Mike Ribeiro gained the Pens zone and tossed it back the Habs defender. He followed this up with a picture-perfect cross-ice pass to Chris Higgins, whose one-time shot easily tickled the twine. It was the type of play that demonstrates quite clearly how Markov is quickly moving into the elite of the league.
Montreal did finally put in a strong effort in the overtime frame, but they were thwarted each time, ultimately sending the game to penalty shots.
The Habs shooters, Ryder, Kovalev, and Perezhogin were all saved in fine fashion, and Theodore stopped Mark Recchi and Lemieux himself before Crosby put the finishing touches on a dominant evening.
He may be a Canadiens fan, but on this night, he played the Habs killer.