After losing their last three games, respectively against Boston, Ottawa and LA; the NY Islanders came to Montreal Saturday afternoon to face Cristobal Huet and the Habs.
Before the begining of the game, as at every first home-game of each month, a short ceremony was organized to present the Molson Cup (an award attributed to the best Habs player of the previous month, according the stars he cumulated). And for the third consecutive time this season, Alex Kovalev won the honour.
Montreal G Cristobal Huet had a calm first period, while on the other side, All Star Rick Dipietro was busy facing the four lines of the Habs.
Midway, Islanders Comeau hit Chris Higgins from behind, who took a little time to recover and stand up. If Ryder did not show all his scoring skills lately, he certainly gave hints about what team spirit and friendship means to him by asking for respect to the Islanders player. No major penalty was called on Comeau's play though, and he and Ryder headed both to the penalty box.
The penalty bench certainly had a few clients, especially on the Islanders'side, with almost three consecutive mistakes in the first. However, the Habs were not able to open the score as the Islanders showed why they are 8th in the league for penalty killing.
Begining the second period, both goalies had to start in the same net as in the first. Indeed, a time out called by Islanders coach Ted Nolan has not been counted, so the first period ended before it was actually time. Both teams had then to play 11 seconds, before switching sides to give place to the official second period.
No wonder why Alex Kovalev is considered one of the most talented players. He built a two-on-one play with Tomas Plekanek soon in the second during their penalty killing by intercepting a pass from Islanders Captain Guerin. Plekanek scored the first goal of the night. But soon after Blake Comeau came along with Satan to get the puck under Huet's stick; to tie the game at one.
Mark Streit scored the game-wining goal, from a pass by Saku Koivu. And then came Kovalev who brought the score to 3-1, taking advantage of the traffic in front of Dipietro.
Trying to shoot the puck back in the offensive zone, Ryder accidentaly shot D Andrei Markov on the face. The defenseman laid on the ice a couple of minutes, before going to the bench to be taken care of.
The Islanders had couple of scoring chances, especially with two by Marc Andre Bergeron and Bill Guerin, who could get the puck past Huet but not passed the pipes!
Heading to the end of the third, Mathieu Dandenault celebrated his return to the game with a goal, assisted by Mark Streit. Later, G Cristobal Huet intercepted a one-on-one from the Islanders, with a Hasek-type-slide toward the blue line. The play had raised ovations from the fans and his teammates, and a big smile on Guy Carbonneau's face.
The Habs will get back to action Sunday at 2 PM E.T., hosting the NY Rangers. Everybody will then be able to watch the Super Bowl, presented later in the evening. And about the starting goalie against Jagr and his crew, Carbonneau let the doubts among the medias, saying he would decide only on Sunday.
The Canadiens are now three points away from division leaders the Ottawa Senators with one game to play. The Sens lost to Toronto Saturday night, and will come to Montreal next Tuesday. There is then no need to talk about how important Tuesday's game will be if the Habs win against the Rangers, as the two Canadian teams will fight for their division title.
The post's three stars: Alexei Kovalev-Mark Streit-Rick Dipietro