The good news: a win…but it could have been so much more. While Boston seems to be intimidated by Montreal, it is a similar story for Montreal when they face the Senators. Tonight was an opportunity for the Habs to conquer their nemesis. Guy Carbonneau sent a message to his team that they have been showing the Senators too much respect. The message sunk it as most players were parroting Guy’s words in their pre-game interviews.
For most of two periods, the Canadiens were sending the Ottawa Senators a message: we have a good team, change is in the air in this division and we don’t need to place your team up on a pedestal anymore. The Habs were playing with a confidence not seen in previous games against the Senators. It could have been a real statement game, but then the old demons reappeared.
Montreal played a terrific first period. The team played agressively using their speed and ramping up their physical game. Canadiens cleared their own zone quickly with good breakouts. They had a 14-7 shot advantage and a 3-0 lead over the Senators.
In the second period, Ray Emery replaced Gerber. Emery looked shaky, but for the first half of the period the Canadiens didn’t take advantage. The Canadiens inexplicably gave up the aggressive play that had worked so well in the first period. Instead they abandoned the neutral zone and hovered around their own blue line to await the Senators attack. This led to Ottawa’s first goal. At that point, the Canadiens woke up and returned to the style of the first. Carey Price made some great saves, the Habs were flying again, Emery looked terrible, and the Canadiens scored 4.
Did they learn their lesson? In a word: no. The Canadiens collapsed in the third period ‘led’ by their group of six playing defense. The Senators dominated the third outshooting the Habs 14 to 2 and outscoring them 4-0. Despite the win, Montreal allowed Ottawa to step back up on that pedestal (in the minds of the Habs) for a little longer as the Canadiens confidence faded and the statement was retracted.
This game may have also ignited a debate: who is the real MVP of the Canadiens? Kovalev has indeed had a great year, but perhaps quietly, Mike Komisarek is the glue that holds this team together. At the time of his injury, Komisarek was leading the league in hits and blocked shots for defensemen. He effectively cleared the front of the Canadiens goal. Tonight, MK’s presence was sorely missed. Ottawa forwards were constantly left alone in front of the Habs net. Despite giving up 5 goals, Carey Price had another good game making several spectacular saves. Unfortunately he had no help in the third period as he was completely abandoned by the guys in front of him.
As well as Josh Gorges played against the Bruins, he is not Mike Komisarek and it really showed tonight. Gorges was caught out of position on a number of occasions and was outmuscled when he was there. Without MK, even Markov had some giveaways. While Bouillon scored, his defensive play was poor also. O’Byrne played well at times, not so well other times…Streit too. Even Hamrlik allowed Sens to get between him and Price a few times. The defensive corps were terrible in the third period and must be better if this team intends to go beyond the first round of the playoffs.
The Canadiens can take a number of positives from this game. The role players really stepped up with goals from Grabovski and Kostopoulos. Saku Koivu and Chris Higgins had another strong game. The team should learn that an aggressive skating style will allow them to beat the Senators and most other teams. The Habs now have a ticket to the playoffs and should focus on home ice advantage and fine tuning their game including the defensive and special teams play.
Patrick Roy was one of the best goaltenders ever. I will never forget his playoff performances of 1986 and 1993. Unfortunately, he is not one of the best people. Jonathan Roy apologized for his rude gestures to the fans but not for his assault on Bobby Nadeau. I would call that classless…not unlike his Dad. Patrick should be in line for a 10 game suspension. Jonathan will probably be suspended for the rest of this season and part of the next.
When asked whether the Canadiens respect the Senators too much, Koivu says that the Habs should forget about the Sens play and focus on their own game.
Carbonneau has irritated me already. He is wearing a hideous tie and he is starting the 4th line (Smolinski/Kostopoulos/Begin). What about focussing on their own game?
Plekanec shot wide off the boards to Andrei K. Quick shot and the Habs have an early lead 1-0.
Big hit by O’Byrne. Gorges with a solid hit. This is a good start.
Kostopoulos deep in Sens zone makes a big hit. Begin with a second hit. Creates 3 on 2 for Sens. Physical play is good but must do it responsibly.
Alfredsson high stick on Plekanec. Habs to PP which has been struggling (2 for 24 last 7 games).
Higgins, Ryder, Koivu start powerplay. Koivu has two good chances!
Bouillon interference penalty on Neil. Ottawa PP (9 for 29 last 7 games)
Meszaros shot from the point. Good save by Price.
Redden went heavily into boards. Higgins puts in his own rebound. Habs lead 2-0.
Canadiens outshooting Senators 9-3.
Good pressure by Koivu, Ryder, Sergei K.
Lapierre hit Volchenkov. Ottawa commentators all over Lapierre for being gutless.
Donovan ran Price who makes the save. Get well soon Komisarek!!
Habs PP. Point shot by Streit at Gerber’s feet. Andrei K kicks it free and scores. Habs lead 3-0.
Markov hooking penalty on Alfredsson. Senators to PP.
Stillman to Meszaros big blast. Great glove save Price.
Great period for the Canadiens: agressive, speedy, physical. Shots favor Habs 14-7.
Redden hasn’t played since his injury.
Ray Emery in goal to start the 2nd.
Ottawa still on PP. Shot by Meszaros, pad save Price. Heatley with takes down Price with slew foot and gets 2 minutes for goaltender interference.
4 on 4 Kovalev with snap shot on Emery who looks a little shaky making the save. Fans taunt Emery.
Habs short PP Higgins to Hamrlik. Pad save Emery, big rebound.
Markov big wrist shot rings off post. Emery is very fortunate.
Streit miss handles the puck and then falls down. Heatley steals. Good save by Price.
Habs are tentative now. They are backing in.
Bad clear by Markov. Heatley in the slot. Great glove save by Price!!
Grabovski makes nice backhand pass to Lapierre. Glove save Emery.
Habs wait at their own blueline. Where’s the forecheck?
Price tries to clear but hits Lapointe. Price makes the first save but Vermette scores on the rebound. Habs lead 3-1.
Good pinch by O’Byrne. Smolinski to Bouillon who scores sneaking in from the point. Habs lead 4-1.
Good pressure by KPK draws a penalty. Hooking on Phillips.
Higgins and Koivu have a number of chances. They draw another penalty.
Emery is having trouble finding his rebounds.
5 on 3 PP Streit from point. Glove save Emery. No one in front.
5 on 4 PP Markov shot. Big rebound by Emry is tapped by Ryder back to Markov. Markov scores. Habs lead 5-1.
Chris Neil with a 10 minute misconduct.
Sergei K with a great pass to the front of the net. Grabovski scores while being dragged down by Fisher. Habs lead 6-1.
Fans continue to taunt Emery who has not looked good.
Plekanec hook on Vermette. Ottawa PP.
Kostopoulos beats Emery with a wrist shot for shorthanded goal. Habs lead 7-1.
very soft goal by Emery.
Habs woke up after Senators goal. They outshot Sens 16-15 in the 2nd.
Begin shot beats Emery but rings off the post. Role players playing well.
Heatley jams away at the side of the net and scores. Habs lead 7-2.
Gorges was next to Heatley but didn’t take him out.
O’Byrne leaves the crease to chase a Senator. Puck passed in front. Plekanec can’t handle Lapointe in front of Carey Price. Puck went off Lapointe’s skate and then was kicked in by Plekanec. Bouillon didn’t pick up his check. Play under review. Goal stands. Habs lead 7-3.
Plekanec penalty for highsticking. He is not having a good night.
Ottawa PP. Alfredsson cross ice pass to heatley for the one-timer. Great save by Price.
Neil and Donovan crash the net. Price left alone by his defense by miraculously keeps the puck out with a sprawling save.
Commodore shot. Save Price. No one picks up Heatley who buries the rebound. Habs lead 7-4.
Price is not amused at the lack of support.
Habs are not winning any battles for the puck right now.
Heatley is behind Gorges & Markov again! Heatley knocks it down with his hand. Great save Price.
Ottawa PP 5 on 3. Shot block by Higgins.
Ottawa PP 5 on 4. Bouillon leaves Heatley alone again…what is going on?? Great save by Price.
Vermette wraparound. Lapointe shot. Good save by Price.
Volchenkov highsticked by Andrei K.
Ottawa PP. Point shot by Stillman with two Sens screening in front. Shot tipped by Spezza. Habs lead 7-5.
Hamrlik & Bouillon left two Sens alone in front of Carey Price.
Senators outshoot Canadiens 14-2 in the third period.
Rocket’s 3 stars:
1. Andrei Kostitsyn
2. Chris Higgins
3. Dany Heatley
(photo credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)