Habs Goalie: Halak (W)
Opposition Goalie: Fleury (L)
Habs goalscorers: Pyatt, Lapierre, Gionta
Opposition goalscorers: Talbot, Kunitz
Tough choice tonight, thankfully. It really comes down to two; one that saved us the game and one that gave us the opportunity to have the game be saved. I'll go for the goal tonight as, without it, this series would likely have been over; instead we play on. The play started with a poor dump-in by Bergeron that left Darche with quite the task. In he went to the corner to retrieve the puck against two Pens. Proving why sitting on the bench for 60 minutes isn't a good idea, he won the puck off those two players and got goal-side of them. He then went behind the net, but that is where his luck would run out. Luckily, however, for the Habs Lapierre was there in support. He flew in and took the puck against the grain, to the open side. A very nice wrap-around beat Fleury and put us right back in a game that we probably should have never been trailing in.
Lost in all the excitement over Gomez, Gionta, Cammalleri, Subban, Sergei and Halak has been the play of Pleks. Though, not playing his best hockey of the year, he is still playing quite well in each game. Tonight I felt that he rose to the foreground with a very convincing performance. Highlights for me were that he was used on the PK more than any other player, wasn't on the ice for a goal against and that he was an impressive 9-5 on face-offs.
You are told this as a kid and, hopefully, you are told this at the NHL-level: 'put pucks on nets, you never know what can happen'. Habs fans were happy with a 2-2 scoreline and I am sure that many, like me, were prepared to take our chances in OT. Gionta, however, changed all of that when he threw a hard pass towards the net which bounced off Letang and ended up being the winner. Again, he led by example as he had 4 other shots to go with that one.
Maxim Lapierre - Game Puck
Max has found another gear in these playoffs and tonight may just have been the best he has played thus far. He was a force all game and his goal was sweet reward for a player that has brought so much to this post-season. He only played 11 minutes and only had 2 shots, but the energy that he brought to the fore-check was contagious as his linemates and, later, teammates followed. When he and Moore are on, as they were tonight, we have a duo that can create good things offensively, hold their own very well in their own end and kill a lot of time with very good possession skills.
Don Cherry calls Gorges our next captain and I can't say, for once, that I totally disagree with him. You can't, however, look around this Habs squad and not see quite a few legitimate candidates, can you? Gone are the days when Komisarek and Higgins were considered to be true leaders as we now have players like Gomez, Gionta, Gill, Markov, Plekanec and, yes, Gorges that all seem like they could do a formidable job and far exceed the aforementioned American duo in terms of skill and leadership. Josh had another one of those games where you are so thankful we have this player. His brilliance, for the most part, came in his own end as time, and time again, he broke up plays that could have given us trouble.
I thought that the Hammer played his best game of the playoffs and am very happy to be reporting that. In the early going he backed up a sub-par P.K. very well and helped to turn any mistake into a non-event. He couldn't, however, do much when Subban was tripped; a play that led to their first goal. What he did do later, though, made up for that as he took advantage of the horrible reffing himself. It all came soon after we tied the game when Roman tripped a Pen and then got the puck up to Pyatt. That play led to our winner; sweet justice for the fact that Habs players, and fans alike, had to sit through the worst display of 'officiating' in memory.
I don't want to take anything away from Jaro by not giving him the game-puck, but I just think that Max was that good. Hot on his heels, though, was Halak who shone yet again. In all there were 33 saves and none bigger than a save on Crosby in the dying minutes - it was robbery as Halak slid from left to right to steal a certain goal away from the star. I thought that his puck-handling, however, tonight was very careless and I actually counted 3 times when it could have cost us a goal.
The Habs started the game well enough and got a goal for their efforts just 2 1/2 minutes in. The refs and Pens, however, hadn't gotten going yet and, boy, when they did it was messy. First there was no call on the trip of Subban which led to a goal.
Now, there are those of you out there who will claim that is not a trip, that 2-minutes is too harsh (I call you Pens fans), but surely you can see that it is not fair that, after knocking down a Hab, Pittsburgh had a breakaway. A soccer style 'foul' (maybe simply a stoppage in play) on plays like this could at least stop these atrocities from happening. Even a 30-second, a 1-minute or, heaven-forbid, a 3-minute penalty may work. Just think, is a hold which led to no cause for concern of the holdee's team really as bad as a violent high-stick to someone's face who didn't start to bleed? Different degrees of severity may very well help refs call things as they are written and not as they choose - who knows, but I do know that it couldn't be much worse, child refs would have been the same if not better and that is pathetic for professionals. Imagine a doctor who was right 25% of the time, a waiter who served a third of the restaurant? It is unacceptable.
The next botched call was Gill's 'hold' on NHL Princess, Sidney Crosby. Does he whine when he gets the calls too? Heaven knows that he gets more than any one else thanks to his looks at the ref (see Gill's second penalty), shrugs and occasional man-tears. These two calls put us down, early, by 1. We would spend the next 35 minutes playing vs. the refs, but nothing was coming. In all we had 9 shots and things were looking bleak.
We started the third period with some spirit and soon we had a couple of goals. One call went our way, and like Pittsburgh, we took advantage. It was very nice to see the refs, for once, being consistent. The rest of the game played out like we wanted it to and before you knew it we had the series at 2-2. Saturday will be tough, on the road, but hopefully the Habs will seize this chance as a win there could make for the loudest ever reception at the Bell Centre come Monday night.