Montreal Canadiens-Toronto Maple Leafs: Habs' Special Teams Not So Special

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2010

NEW YORK - MARCH 16: Brian Gionta #21 of the Montreal Canadiens in action against  the New York Rangers during their game on March 16, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Montreal 2 Toronto 3 SO (Air Canada Centre)

Many say that the best way to see a game is live. Normally, I would agree. But I had no interest in being at the Air Canada Centre tonight. Instead, I watched the game with more than 50 of the most enthusiastic Canadiens fans you'd ever want to meet.

It was thrilling.

Members of the Habs' community that have spent most games together this season via Twitter made the leap to get together in person. For many, they were meeting face-to-face for the first time. I think it's fair to say, it won't be the last.

It was a diverse group with a common passion for the Canadiens. Some had travelled great distances for the shared experience of meeting to support their team. Now only if they could have transferred some of the energy in the room to the Canadiens on the ACC ice.

I suppose that we can trot out the cliches: "Habs played down to their opposition;" "they looked rusty;" "no sense of urgency;" and "Leafs had nothing to lose."

But the bottom line is the Canadiens missed a golden opportunity to pick up two points against a team that is next to last in the entire league. Given the Habs' light workload this week and a chance to leap past conference rivals, one expected them to come out with jump. Instead, it was an uninspired effort.

During their winning streak, the Canadiens had dominated the neutral zone by creating turnovers to help generate offense. Tonight there was a lack of puck support. As assistant coach Perry Pearn noted, the players were too often trying to make things happen in isolation.

The Canadiens were back to being a one-line threat. Brian Gionta scored both Habs' goals with Scott Gomez assisting twice. Benoit Pouliot picked up an assist on a nifty behind-the-back chip for Gionta's goal in the last minute of the third period.

The Canadiens' once-vaunted power-play was dismal against a weak Leaf's penalty-killing team. The Hab's were 1-for-6 with the man advantage. They squandered a four minute opportunity while Jamie Lundmark was off for high-sticking without getting a quality scoring chance.

The Leafs scored on their one power-play chance with Josh Gorges caught reaching for the puck.

It's fair to say that Jaroslav Halak wasn't at his best. Rebound control was a problem and he was out of position on Phil Kessel's go-ahead goal. Halak was beat on all three shots in the shootout.

And as you might imagine, the group I was with lived and died on every shot in the shootout.

A disappointing ending, you say? Sure it was. But despite this being a lackluster game on the ice, it was thoroughly exciting way to watch a game.

I'm sure we'll do it again.

Upcoming is a four-game week for the Canadiens with the next game at the Bell Centre against the Ottawa Senators.

Rocket's three stars

1. Brian Gionta
2. Nikolai Kulemin
3. Tyler Bozak

special mention: Scott Gomez

Player quotes from wire services were used in this report.