Canadiens-Flyers: Special Teams Are Key to Habs' Win

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IFebruary 28, 2009

Montreal 4, Philadephia 3 OT (Wachovia Center)

posted by Rocket

Imagine the day of Glen Metropolit. During the morning skate, he was a member of the Flyers. Just after lunch, the Canadiens claimed him off waivers as Philadelphia tried to clear cap space. A quick meeting with his new coach and receiving new gear were part of his afternoon.

Just after 7 p.m. at the Wachovia Center, Metropolit took the opening faceoff as a member of the Montreal Canadiens wearing number 15. Twenty-eight seconds into the period, he looked somewhat confused with his new linemates. Glen watched former teammate Joffrey Lupul give the Flyers a 1-0 early lead.

His second shift of the night found Metropolit in the penalty box with a high-sticking penalty. The next time Metropolit touched the ice, he received a breakaway pass coming out of the penalty box, only to be stopped by Antero Nittymaki.

''You know how they say, no friends on the ice,'' Metropolit said. ''I just tried to compete tonight and just worry about the task at hand.''

Welcome to the Montreal Canadiens, Glen. It was an unusual introduction for Metropolit in an equally strange game. It was marked by sloppy play, inconsistent goaltending, and poor defense.

The first period was rather wild. It was a curious decision by Guy Carbonneau to start players who had not played together before.

Both goalies struggled. Jaroslav Halak allowed two weak goals; the first as he failed on two attempts to control rebounds. The Flyers had 2 goals on 4 shots.

With Nittymaki giving up two soft goals himself, the Canadiens were able to take a 3-2 lead to the dressing room after the first period. The Flyers and Habs missed additional opportunities to score with the goalies out of position. It could have been much worse.

Both goalies would stabilize their play beginning in the second period. The Flyers outshot the Canadiens 18-5 due, in part, to six minor penalties for the Habs. Philadelphia was able to tie the game on a horrible giveaway by Patrice Brisebois.

The play was much more even in the third period. The Canadiens would end the game with a power-play goal in overtime.

The penalty-killing unit shone for the second game in a row. Philadelphia, with the league's fourth-ranked power-play, were 0-for-8 including two 5-on-3 advantages. The Habs power-play scored twice which is now 10 goals in the last 24 chances. Special teams were the key to tonight's victory.

''Special teams was the difference and they won it,'' Flyers coach John Stevens said.

Tomas Plekanec continued his hot play with a goal, an assist and a team-high five shots. Alex Kovalev assisted on both power-play goals and scored one of his own. Mathieu Schneider had a two-point night, including the game winner in overtime.

Saku Koivu dominated on faceoffs, including on important special teams draws. Andrei Kostitsyn was held off the scoresheet but contributed by his strong play in front of the net.

Glenn Metropolit was 60 percent on faceoffs and led the team in hits. Andrei Markov led the team with 5 blocked shots.

The pair of Roman Hamrlik and Patrice Brisebois was minus 5. Brisebois had a brutal game and cramming as many errors as one player could in 11:51 ice-time. Brise has been responsible for giveaways at the opposition blueline dozens of times this year.

Tonight it resulted in the tying goal by Simon Gagne. Watching Brisebois trying to defend Scottie Upshall in over-time is reason enough alone that he should retire.

Georges Laraque demanded to be in the line-up. He got his wish. Laraque couldn't have been more invisible and insignificant: 7 shifts, 4:20 TOI, 0 fights, 0 hits, 0 shots.

The Canadiens battled back after being down early. It was a very important two points. But defense and goaltending will have to be much better against the Sharks on Saturday night.

Starting lineup: Metropolit, Stewart, Kovalev, Hamrlik, Komisarek
Jaroslav Halak and Antero Nittymaki started in goal.

Halak's road record is dismal: 4-7-1 .895 SV% 3.44 GAA

Dandenault and Chipchura scratched. Bouillon, Latendresse, Tanguay, and Lang were out with injuries.

Rocket's 3 stars:
1. Tomas Plekanec
2. Simon Gagne
3. Alex Kovalev

(photo credit:Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)


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