New York Rangers 4 Montreal 3 (Bell Centre)
posted by Rocket
What side do you choose in the glass half full/empty view of last night's Montreal game? Optimists express the Canadiens did not give up and came back to tie the game three times. The pessimists wonder why the Canadiens were behind in the first place.
After the game Bob Gainey tried to straddle the two points of view.
Gainey was "happy to come from behind" and have the "chance to take two points." But also disappointed. Following the loss the head coach wondered why the Canadiens "trailed throughout the game." He felt that his team "should have been able to move play toward the opposition's net in an important game at home."
Gainey is right on both counts. The team has made progress over the past four games but nervous Canadiens fans are impatient for a turnaround, and nearly ready to irrationally lash out at anyone: Gainey, Price, Kovalev...
The truth is that Gainey's Habs' are playing harder and are now mentally stronger than their previous version. This was the Canadiens best game under Gainey.
The Habs' came prepared to play. In the first period the Canadiens skated well and showed good energy. The Habs also had a strong second period and were even with the Rangers in shots on goal with the score tied after two periods.
Gainey stayed with his top three lines in the third period, something unheard of during the Carbonneau regime. The team stayed strong, did not fade when down, and came back to tie the game three times.
The root of most problems for the Canadiens continue to stem from the DEFENSE!
The advance billing for the return of Mathieu Schneider as a high reward/high risk player is turning out to be very accurate. Schneider is capable of helping the power-play, but can be a liability in his own zone. Gainey wisely moved Schneider to the third defensive pairing, but in a game where the Canadiens were trailing Schneider played more than he normally should.
Schneider's miscommunication with Josh Gorges was responsible for the Rangers third goal.
Gorges has been a Cinderella story this season. But since the All-Star break, Gorges has been playing like Cinderella. Gorges struggled again tonight at minus two.
I was shocked to see Patrice Brisebois in the line-up last night. After reaching his 1000th game milestone, and not looking good doing it, I expected Brisebois would be relegated to the press box for the final 13 games of the season. It's unfortunate that he was on the ice delivering another brutal effort.
Brisebois was directly responsible for the Rangers first goal making two mistakes in his zone. Brisebois leads defenseman in giveaways with 3, a generous count that could be much higher. In the last minute of overtime, Brisebois was single-handedly responsible for killing a scoring chance by Kovalev and then setting up a Ranger opportunity.
In the most telling statistic, the Canadiens had 22 giveaways to only 12 for the Rangers.
Special teams were average tonight. Penalty killers were perfect on four Ranger opportunities.
The Canadiens scored one power-play goal on six opportunities. The goal featured great teamwork: Koivu won an important faceoff; Schneider kept the puck in; Markov made an incredible pass, and Kovalev scored a one-timer.
Overall they had trouble coping with aggressive penalty-killing by the Rangers. The Habs struggled to set up in the Ranger zone and in getting shots to the net from the point.
Line combinations didn't seem to generate the kind of offensive pressure that Gainey desired.
The best line for the Canadiens was Tomas Plekanec with Max Pacioretty and Matt D'Agostini. They hit, forechecked, created turnovers and had scoring chances.
Saku Koivu, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Guillaume Latendresse were all ineffective last night. After his lengthy layoff Latendresse looked slow and out-of-sync This line seemed to lead the team in offsides. One wonders if Latendresse's reintroduction to the line-up would have been more successful on the third or fourth line.
Alex Kovalev and Max Lapierre both scored in this game. Lapierre was also very good on faceoffs. But Kovalev and Lapierre were also guilty of the most dangerous giveaways in their own zone. Chris Higgins didn't seem to have any chemistry with his linemates.
The line of Metropolis, Kostopoulos and Stewart played sparingly. Metropolis delivered the best hit on Sean Avery.
Andrei Markov was the game's first star and deservedly so. Markov had a goal and two assists.
The Rangers first and third goals resulted from defensive errors. The second goal handcuffed Price as it deflected off Plekanec's stick.
Carey Price continued his strong play in goal. He made several spectacular saves throughout the game, especially in the third period to take his team to overtime. Neither goalie made a save in the shootout.
Through four periods of play Henrik Lundqvist did not play as well as Price.
The Canadiens can still control their own fate with their next five games against teams below them in the standings. The Flyers, Hurricanes, Panthers, and Sabres have all been inconsistent. The Canadiens have an opportunity to solidify their playoff standing with two wins to end the week.
Starting lineup: Higgins, Kovalev, Lapierre, Komisarek, Markov
Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist started in goal.
O'Byrne and Dandenault were scratched from the line-up. Tanguay was ill with the flu. Laraque, Bouillon, and Lang were out with injuries.
Rocket's 3 stars:
1. Andrei Markov
2. Ryan Callahan
3. Maxim Lapierre
(photo credit: AP)