Wild-Canadiens: Mikko Koivu Leads Wild to Win Over Habs

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2009

Montreal 1, Minnesota 3 (Bell Centre)

A fifth loss in a row has a way of making folks grumpy.

While the boo-birds reserved their serenade for the return of Guillaume Latendresse, Bell Centre fans instead chose to express their displeasure with their feet, leaving a number of empty seats by the end of the game.

Players weren't in a good mood either. “It’s a tough thing we’re going through,” Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill said. “We’ve been playing a lot better, we’ve been in games, we’re just coming out on the wrong end of them and we’ve got to find something to make the difference. We’ve got to dig a little deeper and get some goals and find a way to capitalize on chances.”

However, coach Jacques Martin had a much different view. "We had better discipline tonight with only one penalty, so that's positive after the last couple of weeks," Martin said.

Whether the Canadiens were more disciplined or simply ran into a more tolerant officiating crew is debatable (Minnesota was only called for two minor penalties). But the coach went on to say that he liked the effort and the ability to create scoring chances.

Reading between the lines of Martin's postgame comments after the loss in Buffalo, I speculated that the coach was looking longingly at the return date of Andrei Markov as a solution to his problems. Tonight the coach seemed to confirm it.

"I'm encouraged with how we played, and also that Mara was able to play," Martin said. "We have other players who should be coming back soon, and that should help."

There were some positives tonight. The Canadiens outshot the Wild 31-21, the first time in 14 games that they went over the 30-shot mark. The Habs abandoned their passive system in the second and third periods, pressuring the Wild and outshooting them 24-10.

Andrei Kostitsyn continued his hot pace, scoring his seventh goal in the last seven games. Scott Gomez showed some extra jump with an assist and a team-leading five shots.

With the injury to Roman Hamrlik, Paul Mara was rushed back into duty. Mara didn't look out of place and was physical in the first period, but faded as the game wore on. One wonders if Yannick Weber would have been a better choice, or at the very least, dressed as a seventh defenseman. He could have taken the place of Georges Laraque, who played only three shifts and had less than two minutes of ice time.

It was not a good night for the defensive pairing of Hal Gill and Josh Gorges. Gill was on the ice and a contributing factor to all three Minnesota goals. Robbie Earl used his speed to embarrass Gill on the Wild's first goal.

Earl's goal is one that Carey Price would like to have back. The Wild won the goaltending duel with Niklas Backstrom having a great game. Minnesota's solid defense didn't allow many second-chance opportunities for the Canadiens.

The return of Latendresse to Montreal was a non-event on the ice. He had no shots on goal and 14 minutes of ice time.

"To be honest, I had some trouble controlling my emotions," Latendresse said. "I was very nervous in the first, it kind of dipped in the second, but between the second and the third it came right back. I'd say I was never able to get on top of the situation."

The Canadiens were held to one goal for the second night in a row by a Jacques Lemaire-built team. The Habs aren't going to win many if they can't find ways to generate more offense.

Montreal begins a nine-game road trip with a game against the New York Islanders on Saturday.

Rocket's Three Stars

1. Mikko Koivu
2. Andrei Kostitsyn
3. Cal Clutterbuck

Material from wire services was used in this report.