Montreal 3 Phoenix 2 (Bell Centre)
“I want to be on the ice when the game is on the line and when the coach needs me most. It takes time to earn that kind of trust.” — Lars Eller
MONTREAL, QC.– Kostitsyn and Eller are unlikely heroes, to be sure. Lars Eller, has been the target of coach Jacques Martin’s tough-love experiment. Andrei Kostitsyn is the quiet sniper often maligned by fans and attacked by rumour-mongering media.
But they combined forces tonight at the Bell Centre to deliver an overtime victory. It wasn’t quite Bobby Orr-esque but Kostitsyn going airborne after scoring the winning goal had Habs fans searching for a similarly-memorable photo.
They also clamoured for pucks being tossed into the crowd by Kostitsyn after being named the game’s first star in what is becoming a home-ice tradition.
There is much speculation about Kostitsyn’s success this season. The coach’s flippant response that it is a contract year for the Belarusian seems to be the least-likely reason, but predictably, it has set tongues wagging.
Kostitsyn has simply said that he likes to score goals, and presumably to be left alone to do that. With the coach pre-occupied tinkering with the second line, the chemistry between Kostitsyn, Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec has been allowed to grow and the players have flourished. Last season Kostitsyn was bounced all over the lineup.
“I believe that the longer you play together the more imaginative you can be offensively,” said Cammalleri.
Now, if the coach would only heed Cammalleri’s advice and give Eller a 10-game assignment to the second line to continue to build the on-ice chemistry with Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez that began in pre-season.
Ten quick facts:
- The Canadiens first line of Plekanec, Cammalleri and Kostitsyn has scored 11 of the Canadiens’ 20 goals this year.
- Montreal won a game for the first time this season when the opposition scored the opening goal.
- Coming into the game the Canadiens power-play was ranked last in the NHL while the penalty-killing was the league’s best. It was a reversal of fortunes of sort with the Habs scoring with the man advantage and giving up a short-handed goal.
- Carey Price had another superb performance stopping 27 shots. He has started all eight Canadiens games and leads the league with five wins, sharing the honour with Michal Neuvirth and Kari Lehtonen.
- For fantasy hockey geeks, Carey Price was taken, on average, in the ninth round of drafts in Yahoo leagues, with Andrei Kostitsyn taken in the 12th round. Bargains for both the Habs and fantasy owners.
- Despite playing seven games and receiving second line looks, Tom Pyatt has yet to register a point putting him in the company of Mathieu Darche, Ryan O’Byrne and Hal Gill.
- In the battle of the Calder Trophy candidate defensemen, P.K. Subban had an extra five minutes of ice-time over his rival Oliver Ekman-Larson, and recorded a power-play assist while the Swedish native was blanked.
- Montreal finds themselves at the top of the Eastern conference standings. The margin of victory has been slim with the Habs scoring two more goals that they have given up.
- New Jersey is in last place in the conference and 29th in the league. Does Lou Lamoriello wish that he had chosen a more player-friendly coach like Kirk Muller. Habs fans are glad he didn’t.
- 28 NHL scouts and officials were watching at the Bell Centre including Bruins GM, Peter Chiarelli. It was a rare chance for the brass to see Phoenix in the Eastern time zone.
No practise at Brossard on Tuesday as its team photo day. The Canadiens will pose and flash their fake dental work before skating at the Bell Centre. On a related note, Carey Price required the services of a dentist following Monday’s game and was not available for the media scrum.
The Canadiens have three more games on the slate this week, starting on Wednesday when they play hosts to the Islanders. Both teams play again on Friday night in Long Island. The Florida Panthers will be the opponents Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
All Habs game stars:
1. Tomas Plekanec
2. Andrei Kostitsyn
3. Carey Price
Ryan O’Byrne and Dustin Boyd were healthy scratches. Andrei Markov was out with a knee injury. Markov is expected to return on Saturday against the Panthers.
(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)
Category: Game review