When is a win not really a win?
Well, the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 squeaker last night over the lowly New York Islanders is as close to losing a game and still winning as you can get.
The Habs needed a frantic four goal comeback to overcome the gritty and impressive 4-1 lead the Islanders had built going into the third period.
If it weren't for Alexei Kovalev and the timely resurgence of his line mates Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec, Montreal would be nursing a stinging defeat against arguably the worst team in the league.
As Kovalev scored the game's first goal two minutes in, Habs fans everywhere collectively sat back in their seats and assumed that nature would follow its course.
They were then jolted back by a familiar face, as ex-Canadien Mark Streit continued his solid play in Long Island by tying the game with a bullet from the point that ricocheted past Carey Price.
Montreal’s play collapsed as Jon Sim's goal, one Carey Price should have stopped, capped the first, and Bill Guerin made it 3-1 early in the second.
At that point, the Habs were in disarray: turnovers, bad passes, missed chances; even mighty Georges Laraque looked bad in his scrap with big BC native Mitch Fritz.
In a post-game interview, Tomas Plekanec was asked if coach Guy Carbonneau had anything to say to his players during the second intermission, he answered: "You don't want to know!”
It is safe to assume that he verbalized what every single Montreal supporter was already screaming at the TV. And it worked.
The Canadiens started skating again, moving the puck and going deep into the Isles' zone. And when Plekanec scored at 7:48 to make it 2-4, they could smell fear. New York coach Scott Gordon promptly called a timeout to calm his young players, to no avail.
Montreal turned the switch to "win" mode and there was no stopping them.
The Islanders just left poor Yann Danis out to look bad as Kovalev and friends danced around to victory.
Let's make this clear: This game cannot compare to the epic 5 goal comeback against the Rangers last year. That was a win for the ages.
Yesterday was a metaphoric loss for Carbonneau's team, a win nonetheless, but against almost any other team last night, that loss would have been real.