If anyone regretted Alexei Kovalev missing the All-Star Game, they could enjoy another sort of "Canadiens' star game" yesterday at the Bell center, against the Washington Capitals.
After a four day weekend, the Habs were back on the ice, hosting the league scoring-leader, Alexander Ovechkin—who had two goals in a 4-3 win at their last play in Montreal. The impressive win against the Devils convinced Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau to come back with the same lineups, so Mathieu Dandenault was once again on the healthy scratch.
Wait a minute! It does not take too much time for the second-best power player of the league to get to work. One minute after Capitals' Erskine got in the penalty box, Michael Ryder and Andrei Markov organized a nice play to polyvalent Mark Streit, who made a perfect shot to improve to seven goals so far this season.
Montreal's number 74 got two minutes for kneeling, but fortunately for coach Bruce Boudreau, Alex Semin could get back on the power play after a knee-collision with Montreal rookie Sergei Kostitsyn. Things got worse for the Tricolore as 32 seconds were left for Kostitsyn's penalty when Steve Begin served a gift on a golden plate to the Capitals, by tripping A. Semin. The Habs were down by two men and Ovechkin was on the ice. Suspense ensues...
Penalty? What penalty?
While his team was down by one man, the defensive play of the offensive star Alex Kovalev managed to be Plekanek's chance, with Kostitsyn coming out of the box, offering a two-on-one to G. Johnson to bring the game to 2-0.
And it was not over!
Coming out of the box at his turn, Begin got a long pass from captain Koivu, before returning him the favor, giving Koivu his tenth goal.
No wonder the Montreal Canadiens are known to be a good defensive team. While the Capitals did not give up, Mike Komisarek and his crew were in charge, with special attention to superstar Ovechkin who was limited to five shots despite 22 minutes TOI.
Thumbs up! Midway through the second period, Alex Kovalev injured his right thumb after blocking a shot. Montreal fans (and players!) certainly held their breath, watching their leader biting his shirt to contain the pain. There was no need to worry though; he even scored the fourth and last goal of the game, with 46 seconds to go in the last period. What a nice way to close a big game for the Russian right wing, who had also six shots on goal, five hits—all that with a painful thumb!
The first star of the night however, the holy of the goalies, comes to Cristobal Huet!
35 shots, 35 saves, what more is there to say? The French goalie recorded his second shutout of the season, and improved to 11-2-2 in his last 15 games, with 1.94 GAA and 0.925 SV%. Chapeau!
This post's three stars: Cristobal Huet, Alexei Kovalev, and Josh Georges. Georges had a very good game with a plus -1 and a few blocked shots. He is improving a lot.
The players left for Washington where they will face the Capitals again Thursday night.