Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Bryzgalov (L)
Habs goalscorers: Cammalleri, Bergeron, Metropolit, Gionta
Opposition goalscorers: Lang, Bissonnette
The Habs looked destined for another tight finish, which can mean a loss these days. So, we needed a turning point, we needed a momentum shift. And, I think we got one - I call it the play of the game. The Habs were just about to kill off Hammer's tripping penalty when Lombardi took 2 minutes himself. That meant a bit of 4-on-4 followed by a PP. The ideal situation then becomes to score on the 4-on-4 to allow yourself another great opportunity to get a goal. Bergeron took matters into his own hands after a Plekanec face-off win as he kept the puck in with a very nice pivot at the blue-line. He then took a perfect shot that found it's way into the top of the net. The goal was scored with 4 seconds left at even-strength. That, of course, meant that a PP was coming our way. Smelling blood the Habs, led again by Bergeron, capitalized on that opportunity and essentially put the game out of reach.
Tomas Plekanec - Game Puck
Pleks to me was our best player and should have been the 1st star too (that went to Bissonnette - after all he did score his first NHL goal (a shot deflected off his leg) and had a fight in just over 7 minutes of hockey (another example of Phoenix's inability to get things right)). He had 3 assists and two of them were simply sublime. On both Metropolit and Cammalleri's goals he found them wide-open, by the net with nothing but net to shoot at. Anytime a passer can do that with regularity the other team is in serious trouble.
This was probably Mike's best game for a couple of weeks. He was very feisty in and around the net and because of it he picked up a goal and a few other great scoring chances. He also chipped in with a nice play at our own blue-line in the dying seconds which led to a break with Gionta and our empty-netter. 16 points in 19 games may not be what some people had hoped for, but considering how much of a threat he is on a consistent basis I am willing to look past his below point-per-game status. After all, that is still about a 70-point season - pretty good for MTL.
Missed opportunities sums up Scott's play over the past 2 weeks or so. He has been good, but not great. Tonight, however, I thought that he had a strong game. His passing was good and he also played very well in our own end. 2 areas that weren't too great tonight, however, were face-offs and his insistence on finding Gionta with a pass, even when it doesn't suit the team. That said, if he continues to play as he did tonight then I will be very happy indeed.
Was Josh's best play of the night to slide into Price and take the net off when Phoenix had a good chance (the puck did, after all, end up in the net)? I don't think it was on purpose, but I like that, whether we meant it or not, we bent the rules and got away with it. I mean, how is that never delay of the game, but puck over the glass, regardless of the situation, is 100% of the time? That play was just one of may great plays Josh had in our own end. Another big one was the effort he put in to win the puck in our corner late in the game - his effort essentially started the play that would become our 4th goal.
I won't lie to you and say that MAB played well in his own end, but I can be honest and say that he wasn't bad. What that means is that there were less mistakes than usual which allowed Martin to feel comfortable using him for 17 minutes (Spacek's absence in the 3rd required someone to step up after all). The upside, of corse, was the offence. A goal, which I think was great and 2 assists were what he had to offer. The PP was 2/2 and that is thanks in large part to him. He also happened to be on the ice for both of our other goals and neither of theirs.
Carey wasn't tested much tonight, but that didn't matter as he still had a job to do and he did it. A little bit of own-team interference and some bad luck cost him what could have been a clean and easy shutout. I can't say I noticed too much bad with Price tonight and I think that that is thanks to the D who limited the shots to 20 and made sure there wasn't too much quality coming through. I like how tonight showed that, at the end of the day, a solid D (granted we were only playing a depleted Phoenix team, but still) will be the best tool any single goalie can possess.
When I look at this game on paper I have the same feeling for the first period as I did watching it: blah. Nothing happened, neither team was bad, but so too was neither team really any good. Things started to open up in the second as we saw a couple of goals, a fight (Jay Leach) and a bit more skating and flow than in the first. I can't say it was the best game I had ever watched, but heading into the third game #19 had potential. The third period, I must say, was quite entertaining. You can forget any rough-stuff, but there were some good chances and goals. In all we scored 3 and had a few other great chances. Another play that sticks out is Gorges puck-sweep (and subsequent trip) which prevented a scoring chance. It was good how we kept Phoenix in check later in the game and, by only surrendering 20 shots, we were really taking the pressure off Price who needed a game like this.
This, believe it or not, is only our second regulation win of the season and first on the road. It is one of those games that you shouldn't let slip and I am happy that the Habs seized the opportunity. Nashville, as always, will be fun on Saturday and it should be interesting to see old Franky Bou again. I, of course, am hoping for a win, but would almost be just as happy with a solid 60-minute effort and some goals. If we can master those two areas then surely the wins will continue to come; as one did tonight.