Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Niittymaki (W)
Habs goalscorers: Gionta
Opposition goalscorers: Malone, Tanguay, Wright
Our goal was OK, our chances on which we failed to convert were, at times, quite spectacular (Metropolit's spin-shot) and Price made a few big saves. The play of the game, however, is none of those tonight. In fact it is a very simple play that follows the theme of the last play of the game. Maybe I am just excited that Kostitsyn is showing life, but I think that I am most excited by the fact that it looks like we may now have 5 legitimate forwards. Like I said it was a simple play and one that didn't get us anything, but the heart shown was incredible. On what looked like a certain Habs icing the surprisingly fast Kostitsyn skated hard for the puck. He played the situation perfectly and got inside of not one, but two Lightning defenders. With a big shoulder on shoulder hit he knocked over both players (and he actually ended up in the heap too) and won the race to the puck. I say won the race, but the icing was called nonetheless. That is because the linesman, toeing the company line, gave the benefit of the doubt to the defenders. In fact, no one touched the puck, but had play continued one would have to think the player on the inside, right beside the puck (Andrei) would have done so first. That would have given us the puck in Tampa's end with two of their men in the corner on the ice...oh, what could have been.
Tomas Plekanec - Game Puck
Tom left Laps and Lats behind in this one and got put back with Kostitsyn. I am not sure exactly what happened and why they only played 11 minutes between them, but I can only assume it is because of their poor overall defensive coverage and their lack of production as newly appointed top-6 forwards (the same reason Kostitsyn has received the same fate a few times this year). Anyway, Tom looked very good back with his old winger and I felt they were our best duo all night. No points for Tom, but 3 shots and, more importantly, 11-3 on face-offs was quite the performance.
I am very happy with what I saw from Andrei tonight. I even think that the get-Kostitsyn-out-of-Montreal crew (RDS) would agree with me there. He was aggressive, he played fast and he created chances; mostly through passing in this one. We need him to continue this play because if he keeps this effort up the points will come. I don't think anyone out there will argue that, when at his best, he can offer a lot more than anyone else vying for one of those last two top-6 spots.
His goal was certainly a highlight tonight, but he and his line were also pretty consistent. Believe it or not Niittymaki actually played quite well and, had he not, this could have been a much higher scoring game. Brian had 6 shots in all and his line had 17 (team had 37), so in theory they should have at least scored one or two more. Not scoring, however, is part of hockey (a bigger part than scoring), so I am just glad that Gionta, after a few games in which he was slightly less effective, is, once again, getting himself in the right spots to get some glorious chances. We all know that, in time, the goals will come.
Hammer was the leader on defence tonight. One of my favorite aspects from this game is that he didn't flip the puck over the glass for 2 minutes of box-time. Martin went with a more balanced approach in his distribution of defencemen ice-time, but Roman still came out on top with over 25 minutes. Only one giveaway and 4 blocked-shots are two other positive stats for the big Czech.
Believe it or not, but neither Bergeron nor Carle were on the ice for any goals-against. Those two didn't play great, but I thought, at least, held their own in our end and added a bit offensively. Spacek, however, I think beat them both in both categories. His shot on our PP, which led to the goal, was what we expected all along as it was a hard, one-timer which was impossible to catch. Defensively he was there for Tanguay's goal and made a couple of other little mistakes, but was still a big reason why Carey only saw 21 shots.
3 goals on 21 shots isn't great and I can't say I am pleased with how the goals were scored, but he wasn't the reason we lost and he did give us a serious chance to win. He let in no third period goals and merely asked an offence, which shot 37 times, to score 3 at home - something that will, more often than not, happen. I felt that he made some good saves early on and he was strong with his lateral movements. He seemed a little lax at times handling the puck behind his net which almost led to turn-overs. Rebound-control was weak tonight as a goal and a few other chances were due to his inability to give out smaller (or no) rebounds.
These are the types of games that, come April, you wish you would have won. Tampa is a decent enough team, but when you double a team that isn't elite in shots, at home, you have to find a way to get points. Niittymaki played well, but let's face it he is an average (at best) goalie. The chances were there, but things like not getting in front of the net, not drawing penalties and not really having prolonged offensive-zone possession caught up with us. This week will, therefore, go down as a bad one as we only managed 2 of a possible 6 points (and surrendered 5). With 9 goals against in 3 games and only 1 win for Price I think it is time to give our 1b another shot in the net as he has been more consistent, but more importantly, has found ways to win. Calgary, Phoenix and Nashville presents another good chance at a four-point weak and I think that it is very doable. A good start, at home, on Tuesday against the Flames will hopefully make up for what was a sub-par week for the Habs.