Montreal 4, Chicago 1 (Bell Centre)
posted by Rocket
Tonight's game was a tough test for the Canadiens against a very good team. The Blackhawks are young, quick, and skilled.
The game was evenly played with the 'Hawks pressing the Habs at times. But the Canadiens had a huge advantage in goal. Carey Price was superb. He made several excellent stops on Havlat, Sharp, and Bolland.
Between the second and third period, Sharp said, "we are getting outworked by their goaltender. He is having a great game."
Price had to carry the team during the first two periods because the Habs were very passive. It was too easy for Chicago to gain the zone as the Canadiens vacated the neutral zone and backed in. They spent too much time in their own end and got caught running around only to be bailed out by Price.
Saku Koivu said, "Carey made some key saves when they were pushing and kept us in the game."
Fortunately, at the other end, Cristobal Huet was shaky and having a Huet night. Only 25 seconds in he allowed a weak goal to Alex Kovalev that gave the Canadiens the start they needed.
Latendresse's goal in the second also has to be considered soft. Afterwards, the Bell Centre fans began chanting "Hu-et, Hu-et."
After playing passively for two periods, the Canadiens were much more aggressive in the third. It was the team's strongest period. After the Buffalo game, Bob Gainey said that he didn't like his team's third period performance in the previous games and he intended to fix it. His message got through to his team tonight.
Special teams were very good tonight. The Canadiens' power-play was 2-for-4 and the penalty killers didn't allow a goal on six Chicago opportunities.
The Habs dominated in the faceoff circle against Chicago.
Koivu's line once again led the way. Kovalev had a goal and an assist.
Chris Higgins continued his strong play despite playing with the flu. Higgins led the team in shots with seven; five in the first period alone. He also did great work on the first penalty kill unit.
The Lapierre line was better but had an inconsistent game. They cycled the puck well in the second and Latendresse scored. But on several occasions, they got trapped in their own zone and failed to clear the puck.
Andrei Kostitisyn played better and had some scoring chances in the third, but it was difficult to get any momentum after racking up 19 minutes in penalties. Andrei came to the defense of Sergei Kostitsyn after his head was run into the boards by Eric Johnson. Sergei did not return to the game.
Roman Hamrlik also left the game with an upper body injury.
Andrei Markov had another superb game. Mathieu Schneider scored a power-play goal (although the puck was tipped in front by Higgins).
Josh Gorges struggled all game. He lost battles for the puck and committed giveaways.
The Canadiens are still searching for that elusive sixty-minute effort, but tonight's game proved that, with Gainey's guidance, they have regained their form.
Bob Gainey said 'no' to the barber-pole jerseys for this game. Instead the Habs wore 'CA' vintage sweaters from 1915-16.
Starting lineup: Koivu, Kovalev, Tanguay, Schneider, Gorges
Carey Price and Cristobal Huet started in goal.
O'Byrne, Laraque, Stewart, and D'Agostini were scratched from the line-up. Bouillon and Lang were on injured reserve.
Plekanec-Andrei Kostitsyn-Sergei Kostitsyn
Rocket's three stars:
1. Carey Price
2. Andrei Markov
3. Alex Kovalev
(photo credit: AP)
(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)