Rangers-Canadiens: Habs Wipe Rags

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IJanuary 23, 2010

Montreal 6 New York Rangers 0 (Bell Centre)

posted by Rocket
All Habs

That's two impressive wins by your Montreal Canadiens. Saturday night home victories have been rather rare this season, so the Bell Centre faithful took the opportunity to celebrate a game where the Habs dominated start to finish.

The Rangers came out firing in the first period. Jaroslav Halak was solid making 13 saves but New York failed to convert some of their best chances with eight shots that went high or just wide. The Rangers are struggling to score and have been shut out in four of their last seven games.

“I think we beat ourselves a couple of times in where we have the puck, get a goal scored on just an icing play, but our spinning out in front of our net hurt us on a couple of situations there,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “But I’m not going to dissect the game here right now. There are some things we need to correct.”

The Rangers did not play well, particularly Henrik Lundqvist who gave up four goals on 15 shots. But give full credit to the Canadiens who aggressively took advantage of New York mistakes. The Habs scored three times in a four minute span to chase Ludqvist. A power-play goal on backup Matt Zaba gave the Canadiens four goals in a brilliant second period.

“It’s weird when they had that six- or seven-minute run there where the puck was just bouncing everywhere,” Lundqvist said. “They just found ways to score. That’s something we’ve been missing that couple of games, a couple of lucky bounces, but we have to work for it before we can turn it around.”

The outcome of the game was dependent on more than luck for the Canadiens, but we can't forget that this has been a rollercoaster season, and Habs fans just happen to be in the middle of an upturn.

So while some are ready to anoint a new number one goaltender and order playoff tickets, they would be wise to look back one week. It was another second period turning point in that game but in the Rangers' favor. They outshot Montreal 15-to-2 and scored three times. The same Canadiens' goaltender who earned a shutout tonight looked awful, giving up six goals, the majority of them being of the weak variety.

You see, the Rangers are, in many ways, mirror images of the Canadiens. Each team has 55 points. They have similar records, even when looking at home and away contests. Goals for and against are close. Both teams are 4-4-2 in their last ten games. In short, they have been inconsistent.

"You realize you have to get better, we got serious about things this week," Cammalleri said of losses last weekend of 4-2 to Ottawa and 6-2 to the Rangers in New York. "But these are just two wins. We want a third. This is just a start."

Recall this week's skirmish in practise between Cammalleri and Max Lapierre. I believe it had everything to do with a passionate player who hates losing like Cammalleri getting serious and demanding the same from his teammates, including guys like Lapierre who have been coasting all season.

Lapierre has played with renewed effort the past two nights and scored his first goal in 29 games tonight. Benoit Pouliot, who was criticized for his attitude and work ethic in Minnesota, has 10 goals in 15 games with the Canadiens. Mathieu Darche has brought energy to his linemates with aggressive yet smart play over the past two games.

But it is the leadership core of the Canadiens who have demanded more from their teammates and led by example. Mike Cammalleri had two goals and two assists tonight. Brian Gionta extended a six game point streak. Scott Gomez' goal gave him 16 points in his last 15 games. Andrei Markov has 15 points in 17 games since his return from injury.

Last week, some wrote that the Canadiens didn't have the talent to compete and should tank the season. Now some are suggesting that the Habs should ride the wave of a goaltender who had a much better game than he did six days ago against the same team. Both reactions are more emotional than rational.

There are more rollercoaster days to come. But if the Canadiens are going to take a run at a playoff spot, let's hope that coach Martin adjusts his system to allow his players to be at their best, especially those in leadership roles.

Rocket's three stars

1. Mike Cammalleri
2. Jaroslav Spacek
3. Jaroslav Halak

Special mention: Tomas Plekanec

Material from wire services was used in this report.

(photo credit: Getty)