It’s been quite some time since the Canadiens played their brand of hockey for 60 minutes. On Friday night it was 3 minutes at the end of the 3rd period and 3 minutes in overtime. Against the Leafs, they couldn’t even muster 6 minutes of effort. Some might argue that key members of the Canadiens were missing from the lineup with injuries. But look across the ice and one will find Juri Tlusty and Anton Stralman as the stars of the game for the Leafs; not exactly household names. Besides, most other teams have had to cope with injuries. (Penguins are fighting for the #1 position in the conference without Crosby)
The Canadiens had an opportunity to clinch the division title and put them closer to a conference title…no small feat. Yet the Habs could not find the motivation to go out and dominate a demoralized team recently eliminated from the playoffs.
For the past week, when the Canadiens have not been playing well, it has been the spectacular play of their star goaltender, Carey Price who has kept them in the game. It was not the case tonight. That is not to say that Jaroslav Halak should be faulted for the loss. He played well enough to allow his team to beat the lowly Leafs. The guys in front of him just didn’t respond with any passion or intensity.
One positive note was the penalty killers, particularly Chris Higgins and Mathieu Dandenault. In fact, the PK unit had a number of shorthanded opportunities to score. Chris Higgins continues to have trouble burying his chances. Dandenault also looked fine when he was moved back to defense in the third period to replace Francis Bouillon. Ryan O’Byrne was playing physical before his game misconduct. He deserved a better fate. O’Byrne’s hit was far less severe than McCabe’s elbow on Grabovski in the second period. Patrice Brisebois was slow and played poorly. If Bouillon and/or Streit are out for any length of time, Gainey better place a call to Hamilton rather than risk putting Brisebois in the lineup.
The Canadiens bench and coaches need to sharpen their game before the playoffs. Three ‘too many men’ penalties in two games is not acceptable.
Aside: With all of the discussion surrounding the attack by Jonathan Roy this week, it was interesting to notice that Jaroslav Halak has changed his mask. As recently as his last game, Halak had an image of Patrick Roy hoisting the Stanley Cup painted on his mask. Instead of a red background, the mask that Halak wore tonight was mostly blue and the image of Roy was missing.
No truth to the rumour that Leafs were fired up for this game after reading “Leafs Eliminated: A Comical Tribute” on “All Habs” this week. None of the material appeared on the bulletin board in the Leafs locker room.
Kirk Muller: Mark Streit and Saku Koivu will not play tonight. They flew back to Montreal for x-rays. (Rumours persist that Koivu has a broken foot). Kovalev will wear the ‘C’. The team may stay in a hotel for home games during the playoffs.
Interesting interview with Richard Peddie by Elliot Freidman. In my opinion, Peddie is the cancer that plagues the Leafs. He is only concerned with satisfying the teacher’s union. If Brian Burke takes the Leaf job, look for Peddie to be ‘reassigned’.
Not sure why the CBC gives so much time to the lunatic activist/fruit fly guy.
Smolinski line to start.
Mark Bell wearing a full cage gets hit in the neck by a McCabe shot.
Nice shot block by O’Byrne.
Tlusty holding on Kovalev. Habs to PP.
Sergei K on the point with Markov.
No shots on PP. Brisebois looks very slow.
Wrap around by Sundin. Save by Halak.
Gorges and Hamrlik clear Stajan out of the crease. Higgins helps out and get 2 mins for roughing.
O’Byrne takes Williams into the glass. Williams is cut. O’Byrne gets 5 minute major for elbowing and a game misconduct.
Good PK kill. Only 1 shot against. Blocked shots by Bouillon and Gorges.
Shots are 6-2 for the Leafs.
Montreal penalty for too many men.
Dandenault and Higgins smart coverage on the PK.
Period ends. Leafs outshot Canadiens 10-2 although Halak wasn’t severely tested. Good PK work but too many penalties.
McCabe pushes Grabovski’s head into the glass and then gives him an elbow. Only 2 minutes for elbowing.
Habs PP only 1 shot.
Kovalev wrist shot off Toskala’s mask.
Smolinski penalty for hooking on Blake.
on PP, Ponikarovsky shot from the point beats Halak and hits the post.
Kostopoulos intercepts pass and feeds Higgins for shorthanded breakaway who is tripped by Kubina.
Higgins awarded penalty shot. Higgins tries deke but pad save by Toskala.
Innocent shot by Stralman from the blueline is deflected in front. Leafs lead 1-0.
Gorges knocked down in front by Sundin.
Good shift by Sergei K buzzing around the net. Lapierre fires it towards the net. It deflects off Dandenault’s stick. Game tied 1-1.
End to end rush by Stralman. Wrist shot beats Halak. Leafs lead 2-1.
Halak didn’t look ready. Soft goal.
Leafs outshooting Habs 19-7. Leafs beating the Habs to the puck.
Nice hit Kostopoulos on Bell.
End of 2nd period. Habs lacked intensity. Toronto outshooting Montreal 22-11.
Shot from the point through Halak’s glove and trickled just by the post. Bell bumps Halak and gets 2 minutes for goaltender interference.
Habs PP. Moore outskates Brisebois for shorthanded chance. Good save by Halak.
Bad giveaway by Begin. Antropov shot from circle is tipped by Tlusty. Leafs lead 3-1.
Grabovski penalty for high sticking. Leafs PP.
Kovalev shorthanded chance to Gorges who missed the net.
Lapierre good move around D missed wide open net.
Hamrlik falls heavily into the boards and gets up slowly. Cross your fingers he’s ok!
Kostopoulos holding penalty on Bell.
Shorthanded chance by Higgins. Great glove save by Toskala.
Stajan to Tucker cutting towards net. Good save by Halak.
Shot from point blocked by Bouillon who is hurt. Looks like he injured his ankle.
2 on 1 Tucker to Blake. Brisebois looks helpless. Save by Halak.
Montreal penalty for too many men. PK kills penalty.
Antropov shot redirected by Tlusty. May have also gone off Sundin’s skate. Leafs lead 4-1.
Kostopoulos gets his own rebound and scores on backhand with less than a minute left. Leafs lead 4-2.
End of game. Leafs outshoot Canadiens 37-23.
Rocket’s 3 stars:
1. Jiri Tlusty
2. Anton Stralman
3. Mathieu Dandenault
(Photo credit: Dave Sandford/Getty Images)