Canadiens - Stars: Price Leads Penalty-Killers to Extinguish Stars

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2009

Montreal 3 Dallas 1 (American Airlines Center)

posted by Rocket

How did that happen? The Canadiens played one of their worst periods of the year yet turned it around for a huge victory in Dallas. Excellent goaltending, solid penalty-killing and opportunistic goals led the way for the comeback.

The entire first period was played in the Canadiens zone. For the first three minutes, the Stars pressured the Habs like they were on a power-play. Then Max Pacioretty took the first of the Canadiens' nine penalties that they would be assessed in the period.

Halfway through the first period, the shots were eight to one for Dallas while they enjoyed a seven - zero advantage in scoring chances.

Dallas scored on a five on three advantage. A shot deflected off Mike Komisarek's skate right to Eriksson who buried it. It was an unfortunate bounce for Komisarek but Mike would soon contribute in another way to turn the game around.

Komisarek delivered a big hit on Mike Modano. Steve Ott, looking for retaliation, abused Saku Koivu and Josh Gorges. "Team toughness" then stepped up. Andrei Kostitsyn hit Ott. Greg Stewart nailed Ott with a big hit (albeit when Ott didn't have the puck.) Stewart grabbed Ott and began landing punches. Ott turtled.

Dallas supporters defended Ott saying that he is suffering from a broken hand. However, that shouldn't give him free rein to take cheap shots and then pull out his ready-made excuse for not being accountable.

'Team toughness' sent a message to Ott and the Stars even though it added to the Canadiens' lengthy list of penalties. And it worked!

One can imagine what may have happened with Georges Laraque in the line-up. Laraque would have politely invited Ott to fight. Ott would have shown Laraque the band-aid on his hand. As per "the code," Laraque would have suggested that Ott meet him for coffee after the game so that they could discuss scheduling a fight when Ott's hand was feeling better.

Stewart and the rest of the Canadiens handled the situation much more effectively

The Canadiens ended the first period with a total of three shots with one coming on a power-play and the remaining two on dump-ins from the neutral zone.

So how did the Canadiens avoid their patented second period collapse? I suppose that they got it over with in the first period.

The second period began with Dallas enjoying a two-man advantage for more than three minutes. Dallas managed only one shot on goal.

With newly found life, the Andrei Kostitsyn tied the game as Marty Turco over-played the puck. Alex Kovalev would put the Canadiens up by a goal with a tremendous wrist shot shortly after their power-play expired.

Carey Price made a huge save to end the second period, and surprisingly, the Canadiens had a lead going into the third period.

The Canadiens were outshot 14 to 7 in the third, but Price came up with big saves. Chris Higgins scored into an open net when Turco couldn't handle Ryan O'Byrne's shootaround to give the Habs a 3-1 lead.

The game star was Carey Price. The Canadiens were outshot 31-19 but Price was brilliant. Price's control of rebounds was crucial to the success of the penalty killers. Price has not allowed an even strength goal in 7 1/2 periods of play.

In the last three games, Price has only allowed two even strength goals. After playing well, but being abandoned by his team the past two games, Price was rewarded with a win tonight.

The Canadiens' special teams have not been very good on the road trip. The power-play continued to struggle tonight going 0 for 3. However, the penalty-killing unit was very impressive. The Stars had ten opportunities, going 0 for 6 with one man advantage and one for four with a two man advantage.

They even enjoyed a rare but brief three man advantage (with the goalie pulled). Loui Eriksson had more than ten minutes of ice-time, on the power-play alone!

Tomas Plekanec was a defensive force in short-handed situations. He worked hard on every shift and was the Canadiens leader on faceoffs.

Andrei Kostitsyn played well. Not only did he score, but he was physical and hustled to beat out a key icing call. Credit goes to Carbonneau for moving Andrei to the Koivu line (although that one seemed obvious to many).

Mike Komisarek led the team in hits and was effective in blocking shots.

Ryan O'Byrne is making it hard for the coach to take him out of the line-up. He was very physical, blocked three shots, got an assist and coolly made smart passes to clear the zone.

Max Lapierre has been MIA. Lapierre was having a very good season but he has been invisible for the last month or so coinciding with the injury to Latendresse.

Greg Stewart continues to prove his value to this team. Once Gui Latendresse returns from injury, he will be hard pressed to displace Stewart from the line-up.

To say that this was a must-game for the Canadiens is cliche, but very true. The pressure was intense on Carey Price who played well again, but won tonight. The Habs' scorers who had only one goal in nine periods of play finally gave him some support.

Guy Carbonneau will survive to coach another game behind the Canadiens bench. Carbonneau has never been shy about publicly throwing his players under the bus, but tonight, when they had the chance to return the favor, they bailed him out instead.

We will never know what another loss would have meant for Carbonneau, but many in the media were predicting that Carbonneau's coaching tenure in Montreal would not survive it.

The Canadiens now play the next nine of ten games at the Bell Centre. It is a case of the Habs not 'counting their chickens' as none of the games will be easy.


Starting lineup:

Price and Turco started in goal.

Carbonneau cancelled the Sunday morning skate in Dallas.

Brisebois and Dandenault scratched. Laraque, Bouillon, Latendresse, and Lang were out with injuries.

New lines (again):

Koivu-Tanguay-Andrei Kostitsyn

Rocket's three stars:

1. Carey Price
2. Tomas Plekanec
3. Loui Eriksson