Opponent: Maple Leafs
Loss: 2-3 (SO)
Habs Goalie: Halak (L)
Opposition Goalie: Gustavsson (W)
Habs goalscorers: Gionta (2), (A. Kostitsyn - SO)
Opposition goalscorers: Bozak, Kessel, (Kulemin, Mitchell - SO)
The nicest play tonight was our first goal, it not only put the Habs back into the game, but also reminded us of how talented some of our players really are. The play began with a long, stretch pass coming from the back end from Gomez. The pass went to Pouliot, who was covered in the neutral zone. Ben, however, was able to use his size and positioning to win the puck and put a very slick, through-the-legs, drop pass to a streaking Gionta. Brian took the pass, that went into his skates, very well and quickly had the puck on his stick. With one defender to beat he raced into Toronto's zone with full control of the puck and one thought only. That thought, of course, was to score and it didn't take him long. From just inside the face-off circle he got off a very good backhand that handcuffed the 'Monster' and put Montreal right back in it.
Scott was very quick all night and was one of the biggest reasons that we scored both of our goals. One thing that I think he isn't, however, is a shootout-type player. He is a very smart player and an excellent passer, but tonight's shootout attempt was, for me, another example of why he shouldn't be used every time that we go to the tiebreak. I think he should be left to gain the zone on the PP, put pucks on net and collect assists.
Ben wasn't at his best in this one, but, overall, he was still better than most of our forwards. To me, the disappointing thing is that a lot of our players were out-worked and out-played by the Leafs, but I felt Pouliot wasn't. He made a great pass on our first goal and was also involved on a few other chances throughout the game.
Brian Gionta - Game Puck
2 more goals for the player that has really become one of our most crucial and clutch players. Both goals demonstrated his ridiculous hand-eye coordination and, of course, his chemistry with his linemates. His shootout attempt was weak, but you can't fault a guy that takes 6 shots and scores his 22nd and 23rd goals on the year.
I wanted to see O'Byrne or Gorges in here, but the bottom line is that no one, other than Spacek, was as good as Markov on an off-night. He was still decent in this one and made no real mistakes, but it wasn't the type of performance that we have come to expect from our best blue-liner. I am, however, happy that (unlike 2 of his visits to the ACC in the last 12 months) he didn't walk away from this game injured. So, not a horrible game, just a reminder of how far above certain players he really is.
Jaro was our best defender tonight and a lot of that has to do with the fact that he made Hamrlik (on a horrible night) a +1 (on for our PP goal too) player. It was Spacek, not Roman that saved us on numerous occasions tonight with some very good work in his own end. He also chipped in on the PP-marker with his 18th assist on the year.
If I needed someone to blame for these goals I would have to tend to Gill more than Halak as I really felt Hal played a miserable game and let his 'tender down on numerous occasions. Jaro, however, wasn't spectacular, but, as usual, he got the job done and kept us in it. In OT he made 3 saves, including one right at the end, that gave us the chance at 2 points. He was weak in the shootout (getting beat 3 times), but the fact that he took us there was good enough for me. A loss, of course, hurts, but getting a point out of it and moving Boston 2 points away from 1st overall helped to soften the blow.
This wasn't the performance that one would expect from the Habs after 6 wins in a row. One assumes that we should have been able to walk into the ACC and make quick work of one of the worst teams in the league and move into 5th in the conference in the process. It, however, wasn't like that at all as it was Toronto, not Montreal, that set the tome early. In fact, it seemed that the Leafs dictated the flow of most of the game while Montreal seemed to struggle as they attempted to play their own style. Toronto got that first goal and really seemed in control after that. We managed to get our goals, but our inability on our Power-Plays and our 0/1 play on the PK really hurt us. One thing that this game may have done, is it might have brought us back to reality. It may just serve as a wake-up call, a reminder that, despite our wins, we are really nothing too special. Maybe it is a reminder that we can't afford to not dress 2 healthy players that could have really helped our team, maybe a reminder that our 'tight' D can also be labeled as our 'porous' D or maybe simply as a reminder that each and every game requires a full-team effort for 60, not 30, minutes. Well, catch-up week is over and it is now time to see what we are made of. We have 10 games left and, although 10 points may be enough, I think we have to aim for 12. That said, it would be nice to get a few more and get up into 5th or 6th and to not just shoot for 8th, as usual. A big effort now, down the stretch, will help us come April as avoiding teams like the Caps or Pens is almost the same as avoiding 9th.