Montreal 3 Boston 2 (Bell Centre)
The Canadiens have relied on one line for their scoring for most of the season. Depending on injuries, it's either been Plekanec-Cammalleri-A. Kostitsyn or Gomez-Gionta-Pouliot who provided most of the production.
As long as teams keyed on defending the hot line and didn't take too many penalties to test a potent power-play, they had a good chance of beating the Canadiens.
But then something happened on Tuesday, March 2.
It was a road game against the Bruins and was the Canadiens' first action following the Olympic break. Carey Price kept his team in the game for two periods until the Habs erupted for four goals in the third.
The production came from the third and fourth lines who combined for nine points. Finally, there was an appearance of secondary scoring.
Since then, Dominic Moore, Travis Moen, and Sergei Kostitsyn have developed into one of the best third lines the Canadiens have had in some time. According to the center, the best is yet to come.
"To be honest, we aren't there yet," said Moore when asked about the chemistry on the line. "We're still learning each others games. We will definitely get better."
Following an excellent Olympic tournament, Sergei Kostitsyn is one player that is playing much better now that he has a defined role. He scored twice tonight and was the first star for the second consecutive game. Moore was the game's third star with two assists.
Moore had high praise for his linemate. "Sergei is looking like he is getting his confidence. He has patience with the puck, and shows poise. He has all the tools."
Glen Metropolit and Mathieu Darche have also contributed valuable minutes for coach Jacques Martin. Tonight, Maxim Lapierre was matched with the pair in his first game since his four-game suspension. Lapierre had an energetic first period and the lion's share of his six hits.
Lapierre was less noticeable for the remainder of the game. His line-up spot should offer an option for coach Martin once power-play specialist Marc-Andre Bergeron is healthy enough to return. It would also maintain the chemistry that seems to be working well for the rest of the players on the third and fourth lines.
Given Jaroslav Halak's poor performance against last-place Edmonton, the assumption was that Carey Price would be in goal tonight. Price's 3-0-0 record vs. the Bruins this season along with a 0.97 goals against average and a .971 save percentage seemed to assure his selection.
But coach Martin surprised most by going back to Halak as his starting goaltender. While Halak didn't have much work, only 11 shots total for the first two periods, it was a nice bounce-back game for him.
"As fans we should also be happy to see the team is finally winning some games without needing the goaltending to be through the roof," wrote colleague kyleroussel, after the Tampa Bay game. "The goaltending ranged from good to great in the wins, but never did I feel that goaltending stole the victory."
The same could be said for tonight's game. Neither goaltender was front-and-center. Tuukka Rask was most noticeable for his puck-handling blunder that resulted in the winning goal. Halak stood out when he made a great save on Marco Sturm with less than five minutes left.
"I saw the guy coming backdoor and I just tried to push as hard as I could," Halak said. "I did, it hit me, and it stayed out."
Coach Martin was very pleased that the Canadiens played such a "strong defensive game," evidenced by the low Bruins' shot totals over the first two periods. Ryan O'Byrne and Jaroslav Spacek were both solid in their own zone.
O'Byrne's defensive partner Andrei Markov had a momentary lapse in coverage which cost the Canadiens' a goal by Blake Wheeler. Apart from that miscue, Markov had a superb game with a goal and an assist. The Habs are now 21-9-3 this season when Markov is in the lineup.
“I hope my best games are in the future,” said Markov, when asked about his performance. Let's hope that the same holds true for the Canadiens.
The Canadiens are once again tied for sixth place with Philadelphia, with the Flyers holding three games in hand.
The Habs play next on Tuesday night in New York against the Rangers.
Rocket's three stars
1. Sergei Kostitsyn
2. Andrei Markov
3. Blake Wheeler
Special mention: Dominic Moore, Andrei Kostitsyn
Player quotes from wire services were used in this report.
(photo credit: AP)