Matts Sundin played his third game tonight with Vancouver. Brendan Shanahan agreed to terms with the New Jersey Devils today. And tonight, the Montreal Canadiens had one of their best games of the year. Coincidence? Yes, probably! But, it is fun to speculate that the Habs players are happy that the daily rumours about Sundin and Shanny are over and their play reflected it.
It was a terrific game from both teams, probably the best at the Bell Centre this season. Three goals were scored in the first two periods followed by a six goal explosion in the third. Despite all the goals, both goaltenders made key saves. It was Jaroslav Halak’s best game in more than a month. Halak still had trouble with his glove hand and occasionally overplayed the puck which left him scrambling. But Halak was much improved and solid in his play down low.
What a great game for Tomas Plekanec! He continues to be the hardest working Hab (and most under-rated) on a nightly basis. Pleks is effective at both ends of the ice and his point production is now catching up with his level of play as Kovalev’s game has improved. Plekanec had two goals. Max Pacioretty fits perfectly with Kovy and Pleks. Max made a great pass to set up Plekanec for the Canadiens 4th goal.
Once again, Robert Lang centered the best line for the Habs with 3 goals and 5 points. Lang, AK-46 and SK-74 each had a goal for the Canadiens with Sergei getting the winner with only 21 seconds left.
Mike Komisarek was solid in his own zone with 10 blocked shots.
Special teams were good again with 1 shorthanded goal and 2 powerplay goals. It was the third straight game that the Canadiens scored 2 goals on the power play. The Canadiens penalty killers held the 6th ranked Washington power-play to only 1 goal on 4 chances.
After several solid efforts, Roman Hamrlik had a tough game. Hamrlik was caught running around on the Capitals first goal while Josh Gorges couldn’t handle Semin in front of the net. Josh was caught out of position on the Fleischmann goal. Gorges struggled with the bigger Capital forwards all game. On the night, Hamrlik and Gorges were a combined -5.
The ECHL-calibre defenseman, Patrice Brisebois, committed a brutal giveaway to Alexander Semin. Semin scored easily on the play and had two goals in the game. Semin and Ovechkin had 14 of Washington’s 35 shots.
Guy Carbonneau continues to make curious personnel decisions. Lapierre, Latendresse and Kostopoulos continue to do a good job as the Canadiens 3rd line. Once Koivu, Tanguay and Higgins are back, I’m sure that the Lapierre line will be an effective 4th line. While Lapierre’s line plays well, it is still the Lang and Plekanec lines that give the Canadiens the best opportunity to win. Lang’s line was terrific again tonight yet did so with limited icetime. Lapierre had 4 1/2 more minutes of even strength icetime than Lang. Laps also had more even strength ice-time than Plekanec. (Even strength ice-time in minutes: Lapierre 13 / Latendresse 11 / Kostopoulos 11 Lang 8 / Andrei K 10 / Sergei K 9 ) It does not seem to be an effective way to manage the bench when the Canadiens best players are not on the ice.
The Habs are on a roll with 4 straight wins. Next up is a visit to the conference leading Bruins on Tuesday. It should be good!
Winning coach of this game goes to the All-Star game as Claude Julien’s assistant.
Price, Tanguay, Higgins, Dandenault, Koivu, Laraque out with injuries. Weber is a healthy scratch. Begin back in the line-up
Rocket’s 3 stars:
1. Tomas Plekanec
2. Alexander Semin
3. Sergei Kostitsyn
(photo credit: AP photo)