Montreal-Florida: Brian Gionta's Two Goals Lead Habs over Panthers, 4-1

Kamal PanesarCorrespondent IMarch 26, 2010

MONTREAL- JANUARY 14:  Brian Gionta #21 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates his third period game-wining goal against the Dallas Stars 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

So, stop me if you've heard this one before: The Habs take a 2-0 lead into the third period of a game—on first period goals by Brian Gionta and Benoit Pouliot—only to sit back in a defensive shell and let the opposing team come at them.

Then, with about three minutes left to play, the opposition scores a goal and comes to life, threatening to tie it up and take the almost-certain win away from the Habs.

They say that lightning never strikes the same place twice. Unfortunately for the Florida Panthers, the Habs did not repeat the same script from the previous night.

Instead, with the Panthers goalie on the bench for the extra attacker, Tomas Plekanec shot the puck into the empty net—his 22nd of the season—with a minute and a half left to play.

Gionta followed suit by putting his 25th of the season into the still-empty net with eight seconds to go.

And that was all she wrote.

On the same night that the NHL implemented their new "hits to the head" rules, there was a horrible moment in the second period when Jaroslav Spacek hit David Booth with a clean face-to-face body check. Booth had his head down and Spacek's shoulder hit him right in the head. Booth stayed down for a few minutes before being helped off of the ice.

With his previous concussion at the beginning of the season, I think it is fair to say that Booth probably suffered another one last night and will be done for the season. Let's just hope that, for his sake, it is nothing too serious.

Please remember that while it was sad to see Booth again KO'd on the ice, Spacek's hit was clean, even under the new rules.

Final Score: Habs 4—Panthers 1

Game Notes

Halak It, Halak It a Lot!

The Panthers started the game with fire in their eyes and took the play to the Canadiens early in the first period. Halak was up to the challenge, however, making several spectacular saves to keep it tied at zero.

His work held the Panthers off long enough for the Habs offense to get going, as they turned the first period tide on goals by Gionta and Pouliot.

The defense had a very strong showing. So while Halak only faced 24 shots on the night, his strong performance in the first was the reason the Habs were able to come away with the win.

Let's just say it if the Canadiens won't: Halak has unofficially won the starting job, but Carey Price can still be the future of this team.

Travis Moen, the Warrior

Only 72 hours after taking an errant Senators' skate to his face, causing a severe facial laceration that took over 50 stitches to close, Moen was back on the ice.

The laceration, you should know, goes diagonally from his forehead above his left eye, over his eyelid, and ends to the left of his eye socket. How he did not lose an eye in the injury is beyond me, but that he was back in action so soon shows what kind of player he is: a warrior.

Not only was he playing again—with a visor to cover his Frankenstein-esque injury—but he also played one of his most inspired performances of the season.

Playing on a line with Sergei Kostitsyn and Dominic Moore that is full or energy and grit, Moen was making plays, taking shots, hitting players and generally being a workhorse.

Good on you, Travis! Now just make sure you keep that visor on for the rest of your career.

Has Dominic Moore Found a Home in Montreal?

Over his five years in the league, Moore has played for the Rangers, Penguins, Wild, Leafs, Sabres, Panthers, and now Montreal. Talk about a hot potato!

Since joining the Habs, however, Moore not only seems to have provided a stabilizing influence to the third—and by extension fourth—lines, but he seems to have found excellent chemistry with Moen and SK74.

Their combination of grit, skill, speed, and talent means that his line spends most of their ice time in the opposition’s zone.

In addition to being defensively responsible, Moore is excellent on faceoffs and can contribute 10 to 15 goals per season. At 29 years of age, making $1.1 million per season, and a UFA at season's end, Moore looks like he will be a good fit to stay for a few years.

Say, $850,000 to $1 million per season over two to three years? Given that Metropolit, as good as he's been, is 34, also a UFA this summer, and was a healthy scratch last night, it looks more and more like Moore might have carved out a spot for himself going forward.

After a Temporary Fall from Grace, Benoit Pouliot Has Rediscovered His Form

Yes, it was only a two-game blip during which Pouliot looked slow, sloppy, and disorganized as he fumbled passes and missed assignments. But it was enough to make people wonder, even for a second, if he was going to revert to the player who struggled in Minnesota.

Pouliot, however, would have none of that. Last night, he looked every bit the player who has become the missing cog on the Habs' second line, even though his first period goal was a bit of a softie from Tomas Vokoun.

Glad to have you back, Benny!

Standings and Next Game

The win give the Habs 82 points in 75 games, good enough for sixth overall in the East. Just ahead of the Canadiens are the Senators in fifth with 83 points in 74 games.

Behind the Habs are the Flyers (80 points, one game in hand), the Bruins (78 points, two games in hand), the Thrashers (76 points, one game in hand), and the fading Rangers (75 points, one game in hand).

The Habs have one day off before taking on Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils in Montreal on Saturday. After Saturday's game they will enjoy a rare three day break before facing the Hurricanes next Wednesday, so they'd be wise to leave it all on the ice against the Devils!

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