Friday, May 7, 2010

Canadiens-Penguins: Halak, Lapierre Lead Habs to Comeback Win Over Pittsburgh

So how about those Habs, eh?

Just when you think they're going to wilt and die, the cardiac Canadiens pull off another improbable win.

Last night, down 2-1 in the game and being outshot 26-9 after two periods, the Canadiens got back into things from an unlikely source.

The Habs' Maxim Lapierre, who continues to play his best hockey of the season, beat Marc-Andre Fleury on a wrap around goal that surprised the Pens netminder.

Less than two minutes later, Brian Gionta got his fifth of the playoffs—the game winning goal—when his centering pass banked off of Chris Kunitz's skate and in.

The Canadiens, buoyed by the frenzied Bell Centre crowd, carried the play in the third period, outshooting the Pens 16-9, pulling out an unlikely comeback win, and tying the series in the process.

Final score: Habs 3 - Pens 2. The series is tied 2-2.

Game Notes
1. Jaroslav Halak continues to give the Habs a chance to win every game.

The main reason that Canadiens eliminated the Washington Capitals in Round One and are tied with the Pens in Round Two is Halak.

The Habs' netminder is playing the best hockey of his life and is in the kind of zone that can carry a team to glory. Now the Habs have a long way to go but with Halak in nets, routinely facing and stopping 35+ shots a night, anything is possible.

Halak kept the Canadiens in the game as the Pens looked every bit the defending champions over the first forty minutes of play.

His win last night pushed his record when facing 35 or more shots, this season, to an unbelievable 15-0-1.

2. The third and fourth lines were keys to the Habs' win.

The Canadiens recipe for success this season has been outstanding goaltending, opportunistic scoring, great special teams, and goals from the third and fourth lines.

Last night, the bottom six players played a huge role in the Canadiens victory.

Starting with Tom Pyatt's first goal—from Travis Moen and Glen Metropolit—at 2:34 of the first period, and ending with Lapierre's second goal of the playoffs—the tying goal—the bottom six players made a difference last night.

Lapierre, in particular, had a hop to his step all night as he took the body, went to the net, and moved his feet to cause havoc for the Pens defenders.

It was Lapierre's line that started to shift the momentum towards the Canadiens early in the third period, as his tenacious forecheck kept the puck in the Pens zone and led to the tying goal.

From there, the Canadiens ran with the energy of the building and completely dominated the third period.

3. Brian Gionta is the unofficial captain of this team.

Gionta was the player who picked this team up on his shoulders and led them to victory last night. Not only did he score the winning goal, but he was visibly upset after all of the missed calls by the refs and played with incredible vigor and intensity during the third period as a result.

You see that he had in his head that they were not going to lose that game and his energy made the rest of the team play just as strong as him.

During a post game CBC interview, when asked about all of the missed/bad calls by the refs, Gionta simply said he wouldn't comment on that.

That is leadership. And that is the man who is showing the way for the rest of the team.

If he doesn't get the 'C' in the offseason, I'll be shocked.

4. Speaking of leadership, Josh Gorges continues to be the Habs' unsung hero.

Night in and night out, Gorges is blocking shots, killing penalties, making great first passes, and is responsible for shutting down the opposition's top offensive unit.

That Sidney Crosby only has three assists over the first four games of this series is a testament to Gorges' work.

5. A note on the refs.

I hate talking about the refs. I don't like complaining about them, and I don't like blaming them for the outcome of any game.

I feel that the refs are a variable, like the weather, that is out of the players' control and that they should try to win regardless of whether the refs are good or bad.

Last night, however, the number of missed calls against the Montreal Canadiens was egregious. Some will say that this is a conspiracy and that the NHL and Gary Bettman want the Pens to win another cup.

I'm here to tell you that it is not. So please, take off your tinfoil hats.

No, last night was just bad work by the refs, pure and simple. They botched it.

During the intermission on CBC, yesterday, they showed a clip of seven missed calls by the refs against the Canadiens, and one marginal call on Gionta. Don Cherry was livid about how bad the refs work was.

When Don Cherry and the CBC—neither of who are pro-Montreal—are saying that the refs are bad, you know that something is off.

The Canadiens won, however, despite the bad work by the officials and that's what sport is about. A ref has a difficult, subjective job and they have to do their best to make calls when things are happening quickly, on the ice.

I think that it is loser talk to blame the refs for a loss.

The Canadiens won last night despite the refs, not because of them, and that's what being a professional athlete is all about.

Look Out Ahead!
Wow, what to expect for the next game? Who knows? If there is one thing that is certain it is that the Canadiens, currently missing two of their top three defensemen—Andrei Markov and Jaroslav Spacek—believe in themselves.

They have the confidence that they can beat anyone right now, and that is invaluable during the playoffs.

As for the Pens, they've been down this road before and will not be scared going into Game Five. Nervous yes, but not scared as they are a team that has been to the cup finals two years in a row.

If, however, the Canadiens can take the lead into the third period on Saturday, and Halak can continue to frustrate the Pens scorers, then perhaps doubt will start to creep into their heads.

As soon as you start to doubt yourself in the playoffs, you are as good as done. If your mind doesn't believe, then your body will not follow.

Look for the Pens to have Bill Guerin back in the lineup for Saturday's Game Five.

Next Game
Both teams travel back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game Five. Will the Pens win and come back to Montreal with a chance to close out the series? Will the Canadiens steal one in Pittsburgh and come back to Montreal with a chance to eliminate the defending champs?

The way this series has played out so far, anything can happen and it is likely to be one heck of an entertaining game!

So what do you think? Who will win on Monday? Have the Pens started to doubt themselves? Can the Habs really oust them or will the Pens roll over them from here on out? Let us know what you think.


The game last night was ugly and brutal, but glorious as well. The never-say-die-wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve team that is the Montreal Canadiens decided to come out and play in the 3rd, and that made all the difference. Should Fleury have had Pyatt goal? Yes. What about the Laps goal? Maybe. And the Gionta goal was definitely soaked in fairy dust. I don't care. After all the bad breaks of the 1st period, courtesy largely of the officiating, the Habs were due, and their constant work ethic and diligence helped them create their own luck. I'm sick of seeing only 3 shots on goal in the 2nd period, and kudos to Kirk Muller, whom Gio stated after the game made a significant change on the offensive line. Kudos as well, to Les Boys, who listened. Hard to score a goal when you don't take shots at the net. Isn't that what we complained about in game 3, and also for the first two periods of game 4? Even in his post-game conference, JM mentioned it. I hope the team remembers this come Saturday's game 5.

Pyatt's goal was a result of him taking a shot at the net. It was lucky it went in, but he still had to shoot the puck. Same for Laps. He battled for that puck, along with his linemate Darche, and that hard work paid off. Gio's centering pass was lucky, but it didn't magically teleport itself into a position to bounce off Letang's skate. They were driving to the net, trying to put shots on Fleury (after 2 dismal periods where they didn't seem to want to bother), and that's what made the difference. A helping hand from the Hockey Gods came in handy too.

As for the officiating, if that's the calibre of refereeing the NHL deems its best for the playoffs, then Bettman and Co. ought to be ashamed. It's a disgrace, and when Don (I hate the Habs and love the Leafs) Cherry is calling you out on Coach's Corner, and CBC is running a montage of clips of botched calls, then clearly the referees need to be better trained. My fear is that all the commentary and write-ups the bad calls are getting today (even by impartial observers such as the NY Times) may lead to an unintentional embarrassment of the refs, which can cause a backlash, which will result in even more terrible officiating against the already underdog Habs. All I want is a fair game called by competent, but it seems to be a bit much to ask for some reason. The two refs last night really ought to never officiate a playoff level game ever again, or indeed any NHL game ever again. Yes, they were that bad.

Not sure what Byslma is smoking to think the calls were against the Pens tonight. Every single one went their way, which is what gives rise to the conspiracy theory rumours.

It's nice to see the Habs still have that pitbull mentality. I have a feeling they're going to need it still. It's wonderful that they're starting to win on home ice, actually feeding off the crowd and staying on their toes instead of laying back with a lead. They're starting to walk the walk, instead of just talking the talk. I hope they continue to do so.

Hey there Tyg, thanks for taking part in the chat and for your always insightful comments!

There is no two ways about it, the refs were horrible last night. But what is important, is that the Canadiens got PO'd and won despite the bad calls/lack thereof.

Gionta is a warrior and played like a man possessed in the third period.

It's amazing because you can see the difference between the core of this team—Gionta, Cammalleri, Gomez, Gill, Moen—versus the core of last year's team—Komisarek, Higgins, Koivu, Kovalev.

While I would take Koivu on my team any day, the other three were not able to lift the team, but rather carried them further down the spiral.

This year's leaders are lifting the team when all hope appears lost.

The heart on this team in incredible and it starts with the likes of Gionta, Gill and Gorges.

Like any fan or coach, they will always see calls missed against their team and, to be honest, there were likely calls missed against the Pens. That's going to happen to both teams on any given night. However it is the volume and the obviousness of the calls missed against the Habs that stands out, imo.

Again, and like you said, if the Habs-hating CBC is pointing it out, then you know it is a major issue!

I have to agree with you about Gionta... This man deserves the "C". He is the leader of this team. He never takes a night off, and is loaded with talent to boot. If Gionta weren't so small, he'd be sought after by every team in the NHL. Like Koivu before him, this little man plays bigger than his actual size suggests. Difference is, for some reason, Gionta has found a way to get the team to follow. In his long career with the Habs, Koivu made several post season appearances with average teams beside him and he was almost always the best player on the ice. But his courage and spirit did not seem to inspire his teammates. Gionta on the other hand has found a way to get almost the entire team to elevate its level of play... I'd endorse Gionta as captain any day.
As for the Refs, they certainly didn't help last night, but the end result is all that matters and the Habs pulled it off. Blaming the refs, as incompetent as they may seem on some nights, is definitely a loser thing to do. No one likes a complainer, and winner's take on ALL challenges and vanquish them, PERIOD! But since I'm not a pro athlete, I reserve the right to bitch about them as much as I want. What idiots.

LOL! Well said Patrick!

I wonder if it was Koivu's inability to lift his fellow players or if he was surrounded by a weaker supporting cast.

Maybe a little of both, methinks.

Yep, the refs sucked, but who cares. The Habs won and that, as you pointed out, is what is important.

I can only imagine the outcry if they had lost!

Now, however, this series is really anyones game....a coin toss...

If the Habs can win tomorrow, then I think they'll close it out on Monday in Montreal.

I still maintain that the team that wins game 4 in this series(and that team was the Habs) will win the series.

Let's hope I'm right!

Thanks for you comments!

Am I the only one who thinks Gill is a major influence and ought to be considered for the Big C? I love me Gio and all, and I think he would be a fantastic C, but just maybe the reason there is no "official" captain is because there really is no need. You've got veterans stepping to the fore, helping each other and their team. Why fix it if it ain't broke, so to speak?

That said, J-Mart is quoted today as saying the team will probably have a captain next year. Also, Markov (sans crutches) accompanying the team to the Pitts today. My thought is moral support, since an ACL is apparently (from what I've read) serious and painful. Still, one cannot help but dream, right? The team works well, but it is noticeable they miss their go to guy.

Good point Tyg! Yep, Gilly is a MAJOR factor in this teams success right now on and off the ice.

He is known for being very vocal in the dressing room and a great leader.

Right now there is no need for a captain, but I'm sure that next year they will have one.

As far Markov accompanying the team, Conor McKenna from the Team 990 reported that he might actually play!

I think that is insanity, but what do I know. There is a pic of Markov getting off of the team bus, walking on his own, no crutches, carrying his own bag.

Maybe he is not as badly injured as we originally thought.

Can you imagine if he comes back? Wow!

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