Location: Los Angeles
Habs Goalie: Halak (W)
Opposition Goalie: Quick (L)
Habs goalscorers: Gionta, Moore, Pouliot, Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Kopitar, Modin
With time ticking down at the end of this game I feared that another last minute goal-against was about to come. Leaving LA with one point wouldn't have been disastrous, but the more points we get the better, so I was really hoping that we would hold on for the win. With about 1:15 left to play, and Quick on the bench, Sergei stepped up to a pass in the neutral zone and cut it off. He then made a great play off of the boards to a streaking Plekanec. Tom went in and made absolutely no mistake as he got in very close (on a defender) and put the puck in the bottom left corner of the net.
This line had an amazing start to the game and within 22 seconds had put the Habs up by 1. It was nice to see the team come out of the blocks with so much energy as it really set the tone for the rest of the game. It was Brian who scored that goal and then, believe it or not, contributed (assist) in a very similar fashion 36 seconds into the third. Gio, right now, is our hottest player and I think, until Cammalleri is back, we will need quite a bit from him.
Scott Gomez - Game Puck
Scott was at the root of both of his lines' goals and was really the engine driving that line all night. His passing was exceptional (he ended with 2 assists) and could have led to a few more goals. I would have liked to see better work on face-offs, but all in all this was a strong game, in both ends for Scott.
Pouliot took a couple of games to get back into the swing of things, but certainly looked like his old self tonight after two sub-par games. He was the third member of the 2-point club as he also chipped in with a goal and an assist. His goal, in particular, impressed me as it was truly a goalscorer's goal. First off he was positioned so well in front of the net and when the pass came he didn't shoot it over the net or fan on it, but instead found a small hole in Quick to put us up by 2. His goal was his 15th of the year and has me thinking that he'll be at 20 in no time.
At just over 20 minutes of ice-time one may think that Markov wasn't playing his best, but I don't really think that that is the case. Martin, I believe, is being smart by not overusing our star as he gives him more time to rest and get ready for what will be a crazy last few weeks of the season. Of course, if we had more than one PP we would have seen more of him for sure, but I guess, tonight, we didn't need him as much. He still, however, managed to collect an assist, lead defencemen in shots and lead the whole team in hits, with four.
I was very happy with Jaro's play tonight. Offensively there is little to speak of as we didn't really get our chances on the PP. He did, however, chip in on our third goal with a very good play to keep the puck alive at the blue-line (no assist though). I felt, though, that it was his play in our own end (and the fact that he ended the game at +3) which earned him a dome. He was strong all night long as he, once again, worked well with his countryman.
Halak hadn't played since that disastrous effort against the Flyers three weeks ago. Well, he had played, for Slovakia, and had done really well, but I think we were all looking for a return to form in the red-white and blue. Tonight's game, thankfully, was a very solid effort. He wasn't tested much throughout the game and could have done better on the goals (both were scored in a very similar fashion), but with 23 saves and no major-scare moments he certainly never put the Habs in danger of missing out on points. It's nice to see such strong play from our 2 goalies in back-to-back games and one now has to wonder, since the deadline has passed, if Halak will continue to be the #1 (as he was for most of December-February) or if Price will be (as he has been for most of his career) or if we'll continue to ride a 1a/1b tandem which, at the moment, is keeping us very much alive.
This game was very much like the San Jose game in that we came out strong and tried to impose our style of play on the opposition. Tonight, however, we saw the full-length version after watching the preview on Thursday. Luckily for us the Kings did not rise to the level of the Sharks which meant holding onto this lead was much more manageable. I felt that most of the team played pretty well and, while there were standouts, this was a nice team effort. A game like this, on the road, against a good team can sometimes act as a sort of turning point or starting point of good things to come - let's hope that's the case. Believe it or not there are just 16 games left in the marathon and I feel that the Habs, considering everything, have given themselves a very good shot at playing into late April. Right now we sit in 8th (2 points behind 6th, 3 up on 11th), but have played the most games of anyone. Winning, therefore, is very important at the moment as I feel we will need at least 20 more points to get into the playoffs. We can't however, assume that games-in-hand are a bad thing as we are talking about teams who lose more often than they win and I, for one, am happy that we at least already have those 68 points in the bank.