Stars-Canadiens: Habs Play with Fire but Prevail over Stars

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2010

MONTREAL- JANUARY 14:  Maxim Lapierre #40 of the Montreal Canadiens and Karlis Skrastins #37 of the Dallas Stars battle for the puck during the NHL game on January 14, 2010 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Canadiens defeated the Stars 5-3.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
  Montreal 5 Dallas 3 (Bell Centre)

posted by Rocket
All Habs

There's the scene in a disaster movie. You know the one. The alarm goes at the station. Firefighters scramble to get to the trucks. Guys bump into each other, and some stumble as they struggle to put their gear on. Adrenaline is pumping but is competing with the fog of being awakened from a deep sleep.

Now imagine that the firehouse alarm is the drop of the puck to start tonight's game. That will give you some idea about the play of the Montreal Canadiens.

Quite simply, it was a train wreck. Can professional hockey players forget how to play together without a game in four days? It makes one wonder if they were burning the candle at both ends during their mini vacation.

Simple things like puck handling and accurate passing proved to be very difficult tonight (as if smoke was clouding their vision).

So who came to the rescue? (is it time to end the firefighter analogy? no?) It was the usual sources, special teams and goaltending that led the way, with one important addition.

A very emotional Georges Laraque scored his first goal in his 59th game in a Canadiens jersey on his first shot on goal of the season.
"It was embarrassing that it went on so long," said Laraque. "Every team I've been on I score six or seven goals a year."

Laraque has had his mind on the disaster in Haiti, which is the birthplace of his parents. Laraque's goal seemed to wake up the Canadiens' bench as well as the Bell Centre faithful.

"To have that happen tonight was almost a miracle," Laraque said.

Special teams, especially the power play, was very effective going 2-for-2. Brian Gionta got both power-play goals in his 500th career game.

“Obviously, it makes it a little more memorable,” Gionta said. “I’m just fortunate to be here. I’m happy that I’ve been able to play that many games. I’m pretty blessed to be in the league for that long.”

Gionta's linemate, Benoit Pouliot, had a goal and an assist and was deserving of the second star. Mike Cammalleri, who hasn't exactly been setting the world on fire lately, had an assist and a goal after a nifty spin move. Tomas Plekanec both played their best games of the new year.

With the Canadiens defense in disarray most of the game, Carey Price was left alone and came up with a solid effort making 33 saves.

On the opening tally of the game, Price overplayed a potential pass on a Dallas odd-man rush. It was a weak goal as he wasn't in position to make the save.

After that, Price bailed out his teammates with his strong play, particularly the defensemen, and earned his fourth career assist on Cammalleri's goal.

The Canadiens giving up odd-man rushes was far too common. Bad passes, reckless decisions, and poor positional play characterized the mental breakdowns by the Habs. Max Lapierre, Paul Mara, Hal Gill, Josh Gorges, and Marc-Andre Bergeron were the worst culprits.

The Canadiens' poor play got coach Jacques Martin so hot under the collar that in the second period he took a timeout to rake his team over the coals. Perhaps they just thought the coach was blowing smoke, as the mistakes and the odd-man rushes continued afterwards.

Martin will have one day of practise to hopefully have the Canadiens much better prepared for their next game. His team can't risk another sloppy effort.

The Habs end their four game homestand on Saturday night when they host Ottawa. Alex Kovalev will rekindle an old flame as he gets to play once again at the Bell Centre.

Rocket's three stars

1. Brian Gionta
2. Benoit Pouliot
3. James Neal

Material from wire services was used in this report.

(photo credit: Getty)


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