The Habs continue their tilt in Florida tonight with their second game in two nights in the Sunshine State. After a six-day hockey-free vacation, les Boys seem to be just about ready to bring their game to another level.
Everyone takes turn stepping it up. Carey Price has been huge in goal, and has been the difference through many of the difficult minutes. In his last 11 starts, Pricey has allowed the Canadiens to notch at least one point (seven wins and four OT losses). He will get the start in goal once again with no changes in the line-up.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are enjoying one of their best runs of the season, seeking a season-high fourth straight win tonight when it faces the surging Canadiens at St. Pete Times Forum.
Although still among the league's worst teams, the Lightning (10-16-9) have been better lately, winning three straight to move out of last place in the Southeast Division. After Olaf Kolzig managed to hold his fort in a 3-1 winning cause at the Bell Centre, Mike Smith will get today's start in nets.
Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis are touted to be the two most dangerous players on the Bolts especially when they play the Montreal Canadiens.
Montreal has has two consecutive games with two consecutive hat-tricks. On December 27, Andrei Kostitsyn and his first natural hat-trick in the NHL with the only three goals for Montreal that night.
Last night, against the Florida Panthers, third-line centreman Maxim Lapierre notched his first ever multi-goal game with his first career hat-trick in the NHL. Now, a third one in a row wouldn't be too much to ask would it?
If I had to pick a candidate, it would have to be Tomas Plekanec who has played remarkably well post-Christmas. Added the fact that he was speared by Vincent Lecavalier which was not called, look for a Pleky in fire!
Those who watched the game between the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge and the Panthers at the BankAtlantic Centre would know that it looked more like the Bell Centre. The ratio was 10:1 of Habs fans and it was the first sell-out of the season for the Panthers.
The chants of ''Go Habs Go'' and ''Carey! Carey!'' and the famous ''Na Na Hey Goodbye!'' could be heard loud and clear. Along with cheers for every Panthers Penalty and Boos raining down after every Panther goal.
Look for the same kind of atmosphere tonight as well. The ''snowbirds,'' as they are called in Florida, will fill up the arena.
I would like to add a note on the team play of the Canadiens. It is always nice to see a team which sticks together. In last night's game, Carey Price seemed to be the target of the Panthers. However, his teammates stood up for him and even took roughing penalties for defending their goaltender. Great team spirit!
And when Lapierre scored his third goal, the happiness on the other players' faces was just Priceless. No shades of jealousy or hatred. They worked together to win as team. Good going les Boys. Let's crush the NHL in the second-half of the season.
Andrei Kostitsyn - Tomas Plekanec - Alexei Kovalev
Alex Tanguay - Robert Lang - Matt D'Agostini
Steve Bégin - Maxim Lapierre - Tom Kostopoulos
Guillaume Latendresse - Ben Maxwell - Sergei Kostitsyn
Andrei Markov - Mike Komisarek
Roman Hamrlik - Josh Gorges
Francis Bouillon - Patrice Brisebois