Habs Goalie: Halak (W)
Opposition Goalie: Niittymaki (L), Smith
Habs goalscorers: Metropolit, Gomez, Pouliot, Darche (2)
Opposition goalscorers: Stamkos, Walker, St. Louis
We were never in any real danger of going down in this game or losing our lead, so the clutch aspect is out for me tonight. Instead, for a change, I can just focus on the prettiest play of the night. It really comes down to two plays for me, both involving Metro, but I chose to go with the first, our PP marker. That play started with a rush out of his own end by Spacek. A drop-pass to Gomez at centre-ice, who was at full speed, allowed for an easy gain of Tampa's zone. Scott then, with a full head of speed, went around the net and exploited the man-advantage. He was given a lot of time to find a streaking Metropolit who took the pass well and one-timed it into the net.
Scott Gomez - Game Puck
Right now Scott is playing his best hockey as a Hab and likely his best of his contract (ie. since leaving the Devils). His passing is on, his defensive game is sound and he still puts tons of pucks on net which is always a good thing. Tonight he led the way with a goal and two assists and another four shots. His line was explosive and once again set the tone, early, for the whole game. Thankfully, too, his face-offs were good tonight.
I think that the ex-Redman may just have had the game of his life tonight, right at home. He scored two goals and that marks the first time that the veteran has potted 2 in a game in his career. He is proving to be such a useful addition as he really can be used on any line. Along with Moore, they are breathing life into our 3rd and 4th lines - something that was desperately needed. Besides the goal Mat was also a very involved player in other aspects of his play. He isn't afraid to mix it up and seems to be able to play whatever role (scorer included) asked of him.
Those legs have been given new life. I am not sure how Metro spent his break, but I am assuming he didn't play much hockey during those two weeks. Granted, he has been given more competent linemates, but a lot too can be said of his own play. He is once again involved offensively and seems to be able to handle a full 60 minutes without any real problems. He scored a goal and an assist tonight and now has a very impressive 28 points. If he can stay rested, as we go forward, then he will represent a very important piece to our bottom-6 puzzle.
Tonight represented yet another outstanding time-management game, concerning Andrei, by Martin. He knew that Marky wasn't needed to play 25+ minutes and, therefore, gave him a mere 20 minutes and spread around the rest. Don't, however, let this usage fool you into thinking that he didn't play that well, no, it was quite the contrary. He managed 2 assists and was, once again, far and away, our best defenceman. To put it into perspective he was on the ice for 3 of our goals and none of theirs as he yet again excelled in both ends.
Jaro's strong play was on display again tonight and it all started with that drop-pass to Gomez on the PP. A simple play, yes, but it shows focus and confidence, two things that we expect from the high-paid veteran. That single assist, along with a +2 rating, are the only real stats to point to in what was a solid, mistake-free, effort. He is another player who we must not overplay, but I think the schedule and the fact that our blue-line is currently healthy will help keep that very manageable.
Halak certainly didn't blow anyone away tonight with his play, but he didn't have to. All in all I would say it was an average game from the keeper who hasn't been allowed to be just that much this year. The first goal was possibly one of the worst defensive plays that I have ever seen (2 back-to-back, tape-to-tape passes from Gill to the opposition), but the other 2, especially the third, should have been stopped. That last goal was the first sign of 'lack-of-focus' that I have seen from Halak in a long time and am going to forget about it for now; let's hope it was a one-off.
With the way that we have been playing since the Olympics the message was clear - play as you did out West and the points won't be an issue. Well, it was message received, I'd say. Tampa, even at their best, doesn't match up to us (especially after their first line) when we are at our best and tonight, I'm happy to say, that they weren't playing near their best anyway. Lecavalier may have had 8 shots on goal, but to me was a non-factor and doesn't seem like the player that we all fell in love with (right after we fell out of love with Briere). So, a strong start and some quick puck-movement was just too much for the Lightning to handle as we imposed our play on them. Their D and goaltending looks very sub-par which should only help us as we race with them towards the playoffs. It was good to see the Habs play in red (first time in 24 days) and I think they really fed off the energy of a fan-base that was happy to welcome them home. We now have 2 very winnable games coming up before heading into a 1-game in 7-night stretch. I would suggest that anything less than 2 points from our Thursday and Saturday match-ups (Oilers and Bruins) would be very disappointing after the way we have been playing in March.