Thrashers-Canadiens: One Convincing Win for Montreal over Atlanta

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2009

MONTREAL- DECEMBER 2:  Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the Atlanta Thrashers pushes Alex Tanguay #13 of the Montreal Canadiens during the game at the Bell Centre on December 02, 2008 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Canadiens defeated the Thrashers 5-4.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Montreal 6 Atlanta 3 (Bell Centre)

posted by Rocket

After the Saturday night game against the Leafs, I wrote that the Canadiens needed one convincing win to get back on track. Ask and you shall receive.

Give credit to a team who was under maximum pressure to win tonight. Give credit to a coach who pushed all the right buttons and made all the right decisions (well, almost all).

Bob Gainey challenged the veterans on the team to come through...and they did. Gainey gave the start to the goaltender who has experience playing in the big games..and Carey Price shone.

Gainey's line new combinations were also very effective. Unlike his predecessor, Gainey didn't call for the trap after the Canadiens went up by a goal.

The line of Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev and Alex Tanguay ended the game with eleven points. Tanguay, had two goals and three assists. Koivu had a goal and two assists and did some tough work in the front of the Thrasher goal. Kovalev scored two power-play goals and also added an assist.

Glen Metropolit, Chris Higgins and Mathieu Dandenault were asked to play a shutdown role against Ilya Kovalchuk. All three played very well, and even added a goal. Chris Higgins played one of his best games in a long time.

All three were particularly effective in their penalty killing roles. Metropolit's only flaw was a terrible night on faceoffs.

Sergei Kostitsyn was on fire tonight. He was very quick and aggressive on the forecheck. Sergei pressured Thrasher goalie Kari Lehtonen into taking a penalty for clearing the puck over the glass.

Carey Price played a solid game. He was spectacular and kept his team in the game in the first period when the Habs were outshot 10-to-4.

Andrei Markov had terrific game with three assists (a stingy scorer prevented him from adding another) and four blocked shots.

Mike Komisarek had a "Mike Komisarek game": six hits and three blocked shots. Komisarek also came to the aid of Price when Bryan Little ran Price and then tackled him.

Mathieu Schneider had one assist but played much better as he was only called upon for just over 17 minutes of icetime.

Josh Gorges has really struggled of late but he was much better in this game. Gorges had two blocked shots including one that caused him to miss some of the game.

Patrice Brisebois made a number of giveaways and mistakes, and was partly responsible for two of the three Atlanta goals. Expect Ryan O'Byrne back in the line-up on Thursday.

The Canadiens losses added up when their special teams were struggling. Tonight, the power-play went three-for-six and the penalty killers killed off five-of-six Atlanta opportunities.

The Habs should enjoy their win but this game was not all rosy. Superb play by Price was required when the team was being outplayed in the first. The Canadiens scored six goals on their first 16 shots. That isn't going to happen every night. After all, their opponents were the Atlanta Thrashers.

This was a game to build upon but still not the sixty minute effort that Gainey was hoping for from his team. The coach now has to days for further adjustments to prepare for the arrival of the Lightning on Thursday.


Starting lineup: Metropolit, Higgins, Dandenault, Markov, Komisarek

Carey Price and Kari Lehtonen started in goal.

O'Byrne, Laraque, Stewart, and D'Agostini were scratched from the line-up. Bouillon and Lang were out with injuries.


Plekanec-Andrei Kostitsyn-Sergei Kostitsyn

Rocket's three stars:

1. Alex Tanguay
2. Carey Price
3. Saku Koivu
3. Alex Kovalev
3. Chris Higgins
3. Andrei Markov

(photo credit: AP)