Location: Tampa Bay
Win: 2-1 (OT)
Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Smith (L)
Habs goalscorers: Gionta, Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Foster
When the refs decided to put their whistles away (at the start of the third) the Habs were slow on the uptake. They did, however, by OT realize that cheating was not only allowed, but was quite advisable. It was Cammalleri who took the most advantage of this when he tripped Stamkos in our own end and stole the puck away. Doing this in OT meant that there was a lot of open ice and so off he went with Pleks on a 2-on-1. Tomas had the puck and waited and waited before he decided that shooting was the best option. He put the puck in the opposite (left) bottom corner and grabbed 2 points for the Habs.
Tomas played a much better game tonight than he did against Ottawa. The obvious thing to point to is the OT winner, but he was also much better at face-offs and at winning his 1-on-1 battles too. Today was a good day for our star as he was not only our OT hero, but he was also named to his country's Olympic squad.
Hamrlik's return meant something had to give. Taking Bergeron out seems silly as he is a true force on the PP. Likewise for Gill as he has been nothing but solid as of late, especially on the PK. So, it was really between 3 players - D'Ags, Pacioretty and O'Byrne. MaxPac was the one who ended up sitting and it was, therefore, Matt who moved up to the third line and I am happy to report that he did not waste his chance. This was probably his best game of the season as he took quite a few shots and had one thing on his mind: score.
Plekanec's line was our best and I thought all 3 players did quite well. I did, however, think that Andrei was a slightly bigger threat than Mike. He had 4 shots on net including a backhand in the third period that almost surprised Smith. He may have ended the game at -1 and with 0 points, but he is so far removed from the player who was posting identical stats in October and November.
This was Markov's 6th game back and it also marked the 6th game in a row in which he posted a point - he now has 8. Believe it or not, if he keeps that up he would end up with a 60+ point season which, in 47 games, would have to be Norris worthy. He also was +1 tonight and, therefore, is now +4 on the year. Tonight he showed, again, that he is our best player as he got it done at both ends of the ice.
It was great to see Hammer back, but somewhat of a surprise to see him playing almost 23 minutes, including a good amount of time on the second PP unit. Now, if that surprised me, what didn't was his play as he was the same, solid defender that we have come to depend upon. It was certainly nice to see him in at the same time as Markov as we now boast two very good pairings. A sour point on his day may be that he wasn't selected for the Czech team which I think is crazy. One can only think that if he can carry a team like the Habs' defensive corps for half of the year he could easily be a top-7 man for his country.
Carey Price - Game Puck
5 games off didn't seem to have any negative effects on Carey as he put together a very solid game. He was especially good towards the end of regulation and in OT. I felt that he found pucks around him very well and that he was very much in control of his crease and the surrounding areas. I assume it will be Halak tomorrow, as there isn't much rest time to be had, but I wouldn't be shocked or upset if Price go the call.
The second half of the season started quite a bit better than the first half ended on Monday night as the Habs were ready for this game. Tampa, however, was also ready which meant we were in for a good game. If you wanted to see good passing, good goaltending and good scoring chances then this game was for you - a far cry from games against teams like Minny and NJ. I actually thought that it was quite entertaining and that 35 shots each was a good amount as neither team really dominated play. The Habs now have one game remaining in this busy month and this lengthy road-trip. We go into tomorrow's tilt with Florida with 17 points in 16 games in December and 10 in 6 games on this road-trip. Add to that the fact that we are now boasting a pretty complete line-up (only Mara is missing) and one has to not only like our chances of finishing the year strong tomorrow, but of also having a strong start to 2010. I am convinced that if we can stay healthy and can get good goaltending we will find a way to get into the playoffs come April time.