Wednesday, March 30, 2011
10:19 AM Kamal Panesar No comments
199 minutes and one second after Tom Pyatt last put the Montreal Canadiens on the board, Roman Hamrlik broke the Habs' streak of futility.
Predictably, it wasn't one of those beautiful tape-to-tape passes that makes the end of night honour roll. Instead, it was a dirty, ugly goal with players crashing the crease and whacking at the puck until it went it.
So what's wrong with that?
During the Habs' three game losing streak—they were also shutout in their previous three games—it was pretty clear that they needed either a lucky bounce or an ugly goal to get the party started.
Well, last night they got both.
At 12:56 of the first period, Roman Hamrlik took a one-time feed from James Wisniewski and blasted it on net. The shot was stopped by Thrashers' goalie Ondrej Pavelec, but the rebound bounced around in the crease.
The loose rebound drew both Thrashers and Habs players to the blue paint and, with Pavelec on his back, Michael Cammalleri's shot actually went off the post. Fortunately for Montreal Hamrlik swooped around and knocked the rebound in, slaking the Habs considerable goal-thirst.
Mathieu Darche was next in line for Montreal, taking the puck from behind the Thrashers net out front and putting it past Pavelec only 11 seconds later.
After that, the Habs were in cruise control but still needed brilliance from Carey Price to pull out the win.
Andrei Kostitsyn, who played one of his best games of the season, closed the game out with an empty netter with 1:20 to play.
Final score: Habs 3 - Thrashers 1
Habs scorers: Roman Hamrlik (5), Mathieu Darche (10), Andrei Kostitsyn (20)
Thrashers scorers: Nik Antropov (14)
Three stars: 1. Carey Price, 2. Mathieu Darche, 3. Roman Hamrlik
With the Canadiens leading by two at the 8:35 point of the third period, Eric Boulton skated past Hal Gill, clipping him near the eye with his stick. Wincing with pain, Gill lost his man who was able to pass the puck over to Nik Antropov. Antropov buried it past Price, killing his bid for a ninth shutout of the season.
While I am not a fan of blaming the refs, since I understand it is a very difficult job, that was clearly a blown call. Not only should that have been a four-minute penalty—Hal Gill was bleeding—but the goal should have been disallowed.
In the end, Montreal pulled out the win so that blown call didn't change the outcome of the game.
How did Kostitsyn not get a star?
Have you noticed how no one seems to be complaining about Kostitsyn anymore? This change happened the day Jacques Martin decided to pair him with Lars Eller in the bottom-six.
In my estimation, Kostitsyn is a top-six player however his performance since being placed in the bottom-six has not only been some of his best hockey, but his most consistent.
Last night, AK46 continued on his same path of consistency, playing one of his best games of the season. Not only was he making things happen offensively, he continues to be solid defensively and throws his weigh around to good effect.
Kostitsyn finished the night with six body checks and was physically and mentally engage all game.
He currently leads all Canadiens with 131 hits and is third in scoring with 20 goals—behind Brian Gionta (26) and Tomas Plekanec (21). Not bad for a player that most were running out of town a few months ago.
Price is the Hart of this team
Yes, yes, the Canadiens played much better last night than they have in a week. Still, if it wasn't for Price's brilliance they would not have won the game. I know I sound like a broken record on this one, but night after night Price continues to show why there is no player in the league who is more valuable to his team.
And that's what the Hart trophy is all about.
The veterans finally showed up
Watching the game last night at the Black Lions pub with Gary Whittaker (Team 990) and Kyle Roussel (Cowhide and Rubber), we all noticed how active and awake the veterans looked.
Gary noted only a few shifts in how hungry Scott Gomez looked and how badly he seemed to want to score.
Well his fervor was contagious as line after line played with a determination not seen in these parts for weeks.
Every time I looked up, Cammalleri was around the net or in someone's face. Gomez too was involved in a little pushing and shoving. Hal Gill even got into the action with a bear hug on a Thrashers player during a post-whistle scrum.
From top to bottom, the vets looked angry last night and hungry for the two points. Unfortunately for the Habs, that is something that has been missing for too long on this team.
As I said in my look at the team's woes a few days ago, this losing streak has the ability to destroy the Habs. But, if they can get over and past it, the adversity might also bring the team together. And any newly-found cohesiveness can only make them a tighter group, helping to propel them to a strong post-season.
Now, one game does not a turnaround make, but it's a step in the right direction.
Standings and Next Game
The win not only snaps a three-game losing streak, but it gives the Habs two well needed points in the standings.
Montreal now moves into sole possession of sixth overall with 89 points and a 41-29-7 record. Ahead of the Habs are the suddenly resurgent Lightning, winners of two in a row, with 93 points. After Tampa are the Pens with 98 and the Bruins with 96.
Barring major collapses by those teams, it seems highly unlikely that Montreal can catch either before the end of the season.
Behind the Habs are the Rangers with 87 points, the Sabres with 84 points and the Hurricanes with 82 points, all with one game in hand.
Montreal is back at it tonight against the Hurricanes in Raleigh. The Canes absolutely need this win to stay alive in the playoff race. A Canadiens win would put one more nail in Carolina's playoff coffin.
Game time is 7:00 PM.
Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8 - 9 AM. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/
(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)