Alexei Kovalev's OT Winner Lifts Canadiens Past Sabres 4-3

Harani T.Correspondent IDecember 20, 2008

Photo: Alexei Kovalev celebrates his OT winner with teammates Robert Lang, Andrei Markov and Matt D'Agostini (Getty Images)

The Buffalo Sabres, coming off a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, met the Canadiens in the Bell Center for a Saturday Night match-up. Ryan Miller who made 41 saves was back in net for Buffalo while Jaroslav Halak was in the crease for Montreal while Carey Price recovers from injury.

Lacklustre First

In their win against the Flyers, the Habs imposed their intensity and gave an uplift to the tempo of the game right from the first minute. Against the Sabres, it was faultering at many occasions.

The Canadiens were held off the scoresheet while Derek Roy found the back of the net for the Sabres. A fight between Georges Laraque and Andrew Peters took place with the big heavyweight of the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge put it away with no difficulty. 

Impressive Second

At the beginning of the second frame of play it looked as though the Habs were just trailing with no energy or passion. As soon as the first powerplay was handed out, things started to change. Sergei Kostitsyn's slapshot from the blue line beat Ryan Miller serving as the equalizer to make the game 1-1.

The Habs picked up the pace and played with intensity after the tying goal. However, Alexei Kovalev's offensive-zone minor penalty for holding led to a goal by the Sabres and the Habs headed back to the dressing room trailing by a goal. 

Solid Third

The Canadiens came back with a mission to win, great defensive coverage along with good rushes provided opportunities for the Canadiens. The equalizer was a Roman Hamrlik slapshot that was deflected by Alex Tanguay and found the back of the net.

Ryan Miller seemed to be frustrated by Georges Laraque's presence in front of the crease. Miller wanted an obstruction call however it was a valid goal upon review. 

Jaroslav Halak was shaky at times but held his ground in the third period.  Alexei Kovalev's second holding penalty of the night cost the team on the scoreboard once again with a Buffalo goal. 

Roughly two minutes after Kovalev's return from the penalty box, he put together an offensive play with a beautiful pass which lead to Sergei Kostitsyn's second goal of the night tying the game for the third time. 

Powerplay OT

The Canadiens had the chance to put the game away at the very beginning of the extra period when they benefited from a 4-on-3 powerplay but they were unable to cash in.

Alexei Kovalev's speed forced Buffalo's Jochen Hecht to take a holding penalty with 37 seconds left on the clock. Guy Carbonneau's timely use of the time-out proved useful when several seconds as Lang won the faceoff helping Kovalev to score the winner. 

Positives of the night:

-The Canadiens managed to get 46 shots on goal, a drastic improvement and a big achievement against a team like the Buffalo Sabres. Kovalev led the team with 8 shots (1 goal) and Sergei Kostitsyn followed with 7 shots (2 goals).

-If there were a human version of a pinball, it would have to be Steve Bégin. During the second period, in a single shift, he hit four players in a row bumping out every moving object in his sight. His strong forechecking not only energized his teammates but disturbed the visiting Sabres. 

-Matt D'Agostini is a very skilled player. His speed and vision combined with his hardworking attitude makes him a great attribute to this team. The only thing left is to see if he will keep doing the same after he is guaranteed his spot.

-Big Georges Laraque is a beast. He is surely an annoyance opponents and being on an offensive trio with Alex Tanguay and Robert Lang does not make him look out of place. His puck possession and dominance in the offensive zone was unbeatable.

-Sergei Kostitsyn has unblocked. Three goals in two games certainly is a step towards success. His time on ice which was increased by his brother's absence due to injury has proved to be useful.

-Alexei Kovalev wore the ''C'' well. I liked his determination on getting back at his mistakes. He acted as a captain should've and earned his team the extra point they deserved for showing character and not giving up. 

-Two pwerplay goals and two games in a row has to be happy news to any Canadiens fan. The Habs, who struggled to score on the man-advantage have finally found alternatives. Although one of the worst in the league, these bright spots seem to be guiding the team in the right direction.

Things which need improvement:

-Tomas Plekanec seems to be quite invisible in the past few games. Considered one of the top two centers on the team, his lack of production all aspects causes worry. He seemed to be lost during the game dumping the puck and making long passes making him look uncomfortable.

-Jaroslav Halak was solid when called upon but could use some help in rebound control. Although he was excellent on key stops, his puckhandling is equally be questionable. Carey Price is the number one goaltender but in emergency cases, Halak has to be ready and solid to earn the Habs the win. 

-The Canadiens have to be more alert and ready in the first period of the game. Although they have possiblity and skill to come back, it is always important to start with a bang! Unless they impose their intensity, it will be hard to follow through with an effective game plan and hence be a downfall for the Habs. 

-Ben Maxwell, the newly acquired center to replace Saku Koivu has a lot to learn about defensive play. He is a very offensive minded player and has to do some work on his defense.

What did you think about the game? Alex Kovalev did not get a star (First Star: Sergei Kostitsyn, Second Star: Steve Bégin, Third Star: Ryan Miller). Do you think the Kovy deserved a star? Comment below.