About last night …

Oct. 8, 1956: Don Larsen pitches a perfect game at Yankee Stadium.

April 1, 2008: Montreal Canadiens play a perfect game at Scotiabank Place.

That’s what Alex Kovalev called it. And, as has been the case throughout this amazing season, Kovy is right.

With Saku Koivu, Mike Komisarek and Francis Bouillon out of the lineup, Canadiens played a flawless road game in which everyone contributed. After sub-par performances in Buffalo and Toronto, the team kicked butt and took no prisoners in Ottawa.

Given the circumstances – Canadiens’ injuries, Senators desperately needing a win – it was a more impressive W than the 7-5 game at the Bell Centre.

The last time Canadiens won a division title, it was called the Adams Division.

It’s somehow fitting that in the game that sewed up the Northeast Division, Guy Carbonneau buttressed his Adams Award credentials.

Carbo had his guys ready last night. He and his assistants drew up a game plan – focused on containment of Ottawa’s top line and relentless pressure in the Senators’ end – that was executed to perfection.

When a guy like Mathieu Dandenault comes out of the pressbox to score a goal and play his butt off, you have to credit the motivational skills of his coach.

When Ryan O’Byrne is killing penalties late in the game, you have to admire Carbo’s ability to develop the confidence of young players.

And when a team that most experts picked to finish up the track has 100 points with two games to play … well, memo to the Adams engraver: there are two Ns in "Carbonneau."

Here’s the stat that says it all:

After games in which three
players – Koivu, Bouillon and Mark Streit – were injured blocking
shots, Canadiens threw their bodies at 24 last night – 10 more than the Senators.
Fifteen players had at least one blocked shot; Ryan O’Byrne had five.

And Carey Price stopped 32. I am grateful to Habs I/O posters Kjdavid and usversusthem for these Price stats:

Since his recall from Hamilton, the rookie goalie is 13-5 with a 2.30 goal-against average and a save percentage of .928. And since Cristobal Huet was traded, Price is 10-3-0 with a GAA of 2.29 and a .933 save percentage.

Project Price’s numbers over a full season. Man, centennial year is going to be fun in Montreal.

And BTW, with two games left, Price has 22 wins. In his 1985-’86 rookie season, Patrick Roy had 23. 

Some observations:

• Coming off a minus-4 game in Toronto, my man Josh Gorges played 23:26. The Senators ran at him all night, and Gorges bounced off the boards, made great plays and laid on three hits of his own.

• Andrei Markov played a brilliant game and had the first fight of his career. Nice take-down on that weasel Spezza.

• Roman Hamrlik shook off a leg injury and played his usual calm, steady game. Mark Streit, playing hurt, had a judicious 13:33 of ToI, 3:43 of which was on the power play. O’Byrne played 16:49. And save a few kind words for the Breezer.

• Brian Smolinski played 15:49 of superb hockey, including a team-leading five minutes on the PK. Smo won 12 of 17 faceoffs. Maligned for much of the season, the veteran is elevating his game at just the right time.

• Steve Bégin had only one hit, but how about those two blocked shots on the PK? Along with Smolinski and Tom the Bomb, Bégin proved how smart Carbo is in deploying his fourth lines for double-digit minutes this season.

• One for the highlight reel: Guillaume Latendresse outracing Mike Commodore.

• What can you say about Kovy? First 35 goal scorer since Vincent Damphousse got 38 12 years ago. A leader, a warrior, an inspiration to the young Russian guys.

• Speaking of whom, how about Sergei K. getting into it with Chris Neil? Canadiens’ refusal to be intimidated last night augurs well for the postseason.

• Frère Andrei fires a laser for his 26th. Already I’m worrying about the RFA offer some GM is going to make for this emerging star.

• Quiet night on the scoresheet – two shots, no goals or assists – but I thought Christopher Higgins played a great game. Digging in the corners, always on the puck, feet moving continuously – all the little things you have to do to win.

• Remember when the PK was a Canadiens’ weakness? This just in: Achilles has left the building.

It’s a sunny day in Montreal, and the forecast calls for more of the same right into the weekend.

Two more home games, with a shot at winning the Eastern Conference. Canadiens can finish no worse than second overall.

And arrogant, bullying, totally dysfunctional Ottawa – the team some, in October, were comparing to the 1975-’76 Canadiens – may finish ninth.

Sweet.


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