Thursday, January 24, 2008

Game #49

Canadiens Mount Huge 3rd Period Comeback For Rare Win in Jersey

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Thursday January 24th, 2008
Opponent: New Jersey Devils
Venue: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ

Team Stripes

Final Score: 4-3 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Cristobal Huet (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Martin Brodeur (L)

Habs goalscorers: Bryan Smolinski (2), Saku Koivu, Christopher Higgins
Opposition goalscorers: Patrik Elias (2), Jamie Langenbrunner

2007/08 first
There's a first time for everything, so they say. What they didn't tell you is that every game, something happens for the first time, you just have to look harder in March...

1st Win After Trailing After the Second Period
1st Win in New Jersey since February 2002
1st Multiple Goal Game for Smolinski as a Hab

Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...

The play of the game was our first goal, Smolinski's first of the night.

The play started on what seemed like a dead-end play where the puck would eventually end up in the corner. Kovalev broke into the zone and it seemed like he would dump it in to complete the Habs' change. He got around his first man at the blue-line and decided to keep going. Kovy was then tripped and was about to sweep the puck away with his hand, likely still just thinking about getting it deep. Just before Kovalev touched the puck with his hand (a play that would have ended in a whistle or turn-over) Andrei Kostitsyn rushed in to take it from under him. Kostitsyn then made a beautiful pass to a streaking Smolinski. Bryan made a nice move and then put it up over Brodeur's left pad.

Game puck
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...

Saku Koivu

He had a goal and an assist and looked good all night. If you ever needed to rally around your leader I would imagine that tonight would be a very good time to do it - a game in NJ that you are losing by 2 in the third. The team did just that - they looked to Saku for guidance. Koivu, a big game player, then took matters into his own hands scoring the tying goal and eventually setting up the winner.

Dome hockey team
We're going into the last minute with these 6 (and they're attached to the ice, so they're not coming off)...


Saku Koivu
- Saku may not be having his most productive season of all, but the Habs are winning and I guarantee that the wins are all that Saku cares about. When needed Sak will be there, he'll be our best player and tonight is a perfect example of that. The Habs felt they could win, Koivu made it happen. He was skating fast, making good passes and made his whole team better tonight

Christopher Higgins
- What a time to break out of a slump! He scored the game winner with 5 minutes to play and gave the Habs a much needed win in Jersey. Higgins played a great game tonight, he had a lot of chances and created a lot of offence. With time Saku and Higgs will be back at their usual level of production as I believe tonight was just the start

Bryan Smolinski
- Smolinski scored 2 goals tonight giving him 3 in his last 2 games. Bryan played a perfect game as a 4th line centre; good checking, good skating and smart plays. The upside to having Smolinski in that position, like Bonk before him, is that he has suppressed offensive potential. Players who used to score still know how to score and often find the net when you need it the most - his goals couldn't have come at a better time


Mike Komisarek
- Mike had a good game in his own end finishing with a team-high +2. His defensive play was again spectacular and was a big reason that the Devils only managed 13 shots on Huet. He added another 2 assists tonight, including the shot that Koivu tipped home to tie it up. Anytime Mike gets involved offensively he becomes even more of a dominant player

Roman Hamrlik
- This was probably Roman's best game since Christmas. He hasn't been bad in that time, he has just been his usual, solid, self. Tonight, however, he stepped it up in both ends. The Habs are a great team when we get good defensive play, but we are an excellent team when our defencemen get involved in the other team's zone. Hamrlik was involved in a lot of the offensive activity and played a big part on Higgins' winner with an assist


Cristobal Huet
- This was an OK game for Huet. I thought, once we were down 0-2, that we had blown our chance. Huet's performance until that time did not look like it would be enough to beat Brodeur in his building (normally only a shut-out would do). Though Cristo didn't face many shots he made absolutely sure that NJ didn't score a 4th goal. Whether the Devils were trying to score very hard or not doesn't matter at all, someone had to stop the shots in the third - Huet came through for us there and gave us the chance we needed. I also wanted to point out that the goals against him weren't weak and that they would all likely go in on most nights against the Habs. NJ just happened to have a few good quality shots

Eyes on Kovalev
Did he flit and float? Someone ought to keep track...

Kovalev's nose for the net, his grit along the boards and his never give-up attitude led to the first goal as he made a play that most would not have, most would have retreated to the bench for a rest. He got some relief tonight as the 1st and 4th lines took care of the scoring. Scoring goals obviously plays a huge part in a line's success, but so does intimidation. I felt that Kovy put the Devils back on their heels a little and that helped the whole team to get all over them.

Kovalev's Assessment - Good

Overall Comments

This game started as all do for the Habs in New Jersey - yes it was really that bad. It looked like New Jersey was going to beat us yet again and that we would be answering the same old questions come tomorrow morning. I didn't think that the performance Huet was giving would be enough - maybe against Boston, not in NJ. We seemed to be scared of the Devils and scared of Brodeur. We didn't believe we could score and weren't trying our usual stuff to try and get a goal. I thought that you never see Detroit or Ottawa adapt to their opponents, you just see them play their own game. We generally play our own style, more so this year than others, but always play different in Jersey. The difference tonight came with 5 minutes to play in the second when Smolinski scored his first and we realized that the Devils could be scored on just like any other team. From that moment on we played Habs hockey - we skated fast, shot the puck a lot and never gave up. In the third period alone we out-shot them 20-3 showing that even in the most unlikely of times we can make it happen.

This was the second game in a row, and only second time this season, that we played 12 forwards (rather than 10 or 11) and it worked again. Having 4 complete lines of good forwards gives you something that most teams don't have - 4 legitimate scoring threats. With the talent on our team and within our organization there is no reason that we should ever need a blue-liner playing up front again. All of the Habs forwards have been contributing as of late and I believe that our balanced attack will play a big part as we head down the stretch towards the playoffs.

This win is good news for the Habs as they have always been very intimidated by the Devils. I have always said that you have to beat all teams, in all situations to be a true winner and this represents a step in the right direction. When we were down 1-3 I must admit that all I wanted was OT. At that point I figured NJ was getting 2 points and that we may as well get at least 1. The fewer games that go to OT in the East the better for the Habs, unless of course we escape a regulation loss to send it to the extra frame. This win takes care of one of the two demons I want the Habs to rid themselves of this half. The other is beating the Sens in Ottawa. I feel that the talent is there for the Habs and that all remains is the mental; once we know we can win, we will win - just like tonight.

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