Habs Goalie: Halak (W)
Opposition Goalie: Fleury (L), Johnson
Habs goalscorers: Plekanec, Gionta (2), Gomez, Darche
Opposition goalscorers: Dupuis, Guerin, Malkin
The game was 1-1 when this play happened and I think it was the play that paved the way to our victory. It also, conveniently enough, was the best goal of the night. The Habs had just killed their third of three penalties and things were looking good, but we needed a goal to have something to show for it. This play started with a great pad save from Halak which he sent, in rebound form, out to Hamrlik. Roman then had the good sense to throw a backhand pass to the wide-open Gionta on the left side. Brian then was in alone on Fleury and made a great move to score his first of the night.
Brian Gionta - Game Puck
Gionta had an incredible game tonight as he chipped in with 3 points (2G, 1A). He really looked at his best and was, at times, dominant in the Pittsburgh zone. He was the best of our forwards which, tonight, was a very difficult thing to be. It didn't, however, go unnoticed as his ice-time and PP time were both quite high (21+, 6+).
I list Scott as our third forward on the night and I must say that was probably the hardest call all year (and for all the right reasons for once!). Darche, Desharnais, Trotter, White and Sergei could have all ended up in here and I am sure no one would have complained. Gomez, however, was a cut above as not only did he generate quite a few chances, but he also picked up a goal and an assist. On top of that he was our best face-off man (a far cry from last game) by going 15-10.
Pleks got the ball rolling tonight with a goal on his first shift. He didn't, however, stop there as he managed to bring his point total up to 58 by adding 2 assists later in the game. Darche and Sergei were very good alongside Tom and that line alone could have easily had another 2 or 3 goals. At one point I saw him punching Gonchar in the face in a scrum which I think shows the new Plekanec in one split second; he is no longer intimidated by the big boys, but is instead now one himself.
Josh looked like the best in our own end tonight with some very solid play. His pairing, with Gill, was in fact our best defensive duo which was a very welcome surprise - anytime you can get that out of your third pairing you have to be pretty happy. Only Markov played more out of the defencemen tonight and a lot of that had to do with the PPs. His best play may have been a blocked-shot in the last 2 minutes which preserved our 2-goal lead. Efforts like Josh put forth tonight, against the league's best, will be what we need to see all this week.
Hamrlik's defensive play was solid enough tonight, but what really stood out to me was the offence. He played a direct role in Gionta's 1st and was on the ice for two more - Plekanec's and Darche's. 4 more games Roman and then it is time to hit the beach - keep up the great work.
Jaro didn't have as good game tonight as Thursday (stats can tell you that), but all in all was pretty strong again. The first and third goals were gettable, but both stemmed from defensive errors - the second goal was weak, but luckily not costly. I think Price should play tomorrow to keep him fresh and give Halak a bit of a break. We can't forget that when most of our team is relaxing for two weeks Halak will be a starter at the Olympics playing pretty much every game, so we must be very aware of the fatigue factor in his case. Burning him out now may indeed hurt Slovakia, but it would hurt us more in the long run come very busy March.
The Habs started the game very well with a goal that I really loved to see. Seeing Darche bowl over Fleury and then seeing the puck go in the net put a huge smile on my face. Kudos to the ref for realizing that hitting the goalie isn't always goaltender obstruction, especially when the goalie is the one obstructing the route. That set the tone for Montreal, but unfortunately it was short-lived. The next 3o minutes went by without a goal, but throughout that time the team convinced me that this was a very winnable game. During that time we out-chanced, out-shot and out-played Pittsburgh in all areas of the game. The only thing that was missing to that point was a second goal. Then, after our last kill of the night, we scored the first of 4 more goals.
To me there are no real negatives from this game, but, instead, way too many positives to even talk about. I will, however, talk about 2 - depth and discipline. First, our depth, our real depth, showed tonight as the 3 new call-ups (Desharnais, White and Trotter) did an amazing job. They had the good fortune of being placed on the same line (lucky for them as the respect issue and nerves (see Maxwell, Ben) were not present) and played the best game of a third/fourth line I have seen from us all year. They proved that you don't need to be a first-rounder that Timmins is banking on (Pacioretty) or a player with NHL experience (D'Agostini) to be any good. Those 3 blew anything #'s 36 and 67 have done since December right out of the water. It was great stuff and it will certainly put some pressure on other Habs if we ever get healthy. The other big plus tonight was the fact that we had 7 Power-Plays to Pittsburgh's 3. For once we didn't shoot the puck over the glass or get called for a lazy back-checking hook, but instead managed to make the Pens be the ones to act stupid. I doubt we'll continue getting that many PPs, but when you consider that we scored 4 even-strength goals it hopefully won't matter as much as we move forward.