Although the Canadiens did manage to bring their usual capacity crowd to their feet three times with goals from Kovalev in the first on the power-play, Latendresse in the third on a highlight-reel wrap-around play and of course Captain Koivu in overtime, the game had an air of reserved optimism until the final goal with which all in attendance breathed a huge sigh of relief.
One was made to wonder, with the excellent goaltending by Karri Ramo who faced 36 shots, if all of the thwarted Canadiens opportunities would not come back to haunt them. Conversely, would a relatively untested Carey Price, who faced a total of eight shots through the first two periods, be able to withstand a certain, third period barrage?
In the end, the Canadiens would squander their two goal lead in the third, however you could not really blame Price for either goal as the first goal was the result of none of his defenders being able to clear the loose puck in the crease and the second was a deflection that caught Price off guard.
Kudos to the Koivu-Tanguay-Kovalev line who figured in the first and last goals of the game with Kovalev getting his 20th for the 12th time in his 17 season career and an honourable mention to Andrei Markov, who quietly notched another two points on the night, leaving no doubt as to why he is the team's leading point getter.
The player of the night, as far as I am concerned, was Guillaume Latendresse. While arguments could be made that Koivu, who potted the overtime winner or Markov (the game's first star) with his two helpers, might earn them the honours, there was one shift in particular for Latendresse that may have put him over the top.
While Ligthtning winger Evgeny Atyukhin seemed to be having a field day ramming into and terrorizing most Habs skaters with reckless abandon, Latendresse waited for his moment and while Artyukhin was looking for the puck in his skates, was levelled by the Canadiens' forward.
Moments later, he would skate in on Ramo who over-extended while Latendresse skated around the goal and wrapped the puck into the empty net. This was the play that gave the Canadiens the confidence they needed to not only forge on, but know that they would be able to have a good chance to win the game.
Luckily for the Habs, who managed to accomplish their first priority, which meant keeping Lecavalier and St Louis off the scoreboard, the point they gave up went to a team that was not in playoff contention.
This will not be the case when they play the Sabres this Saturday night. The Canadiens have an opportunity to strengthen their hold on a playoff berth while the Sabres, hoping to get starting goaltender Ryan Miller back, will be looking to gradually crack the top eight with a win of their own.