A win, two valuable points to move within one of the Senators … but it was oddly unsatisfying.
You like to see your team at its best in the late stages of a game. Example: Eli Manning driving the Giants down the feld with the clock ticking down.
Your Montreal Canadiens: Four shots in the third period. The tying goal was inches from the line when Francis Bouillon swept it away. Saku Koivu (more about the captain later) lost a late faceoff in the Canadiens’ end, and were it not for a heroic zone-clearing effort by Steve Bégin, that one could have headed for OT.
Playing without Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley – both of whom will be back for the rematch at Scotiabank Place on Saturday – the Senators fired 12 shots at Cristobal Huet in the third period. They buzzed his net, harassed him, forced the Frenchman, he admitted later, to lose his habitual cool.
What is it with Canadiens’ three-goal leads? Nashville, the Rangers … and Ottawa darn near. I’m not enough of an Xs-and-Os guy to analyze the way Canadiens protect leads. But whatever the system is, it’s not working.
But a win is a win. Cristobal Huet was excellent … again. The defence played well without one of its stalwarts, Roman Hamrlik. And the Canadiens’ indisputable number one line – Tomas Plekanec centring Alex Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn – is treating Montreal fans to thrills we haven’t had since Jacques Lemaire was centring Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt.
Gotta love those European skill levels. And the magic seems to extend as far west as Switzerland. Mark Streit scored his ninth goal last night. That’s one fewer than Koivu – and he’s matched the captain’s 29 assists.
With his ability to play on defence and up front plus QBing the power play, Streit is one of the most valuable players on the team.
He’s certainly Canadiens’ best bargain at $600,000. Unlike Michael Ryder, Streit is setting himself up for a very nice UFA contract.
Sign him, Bob.
The Canadiens GM might also think about re-signing his other bargain-basement defenceman. Josh Gorges, who played almost 23 minutes last night, makes $495,000 and is an impending RFA.
Streit and Gorges together are making a shade under $1.1 million. Mathieu Dandenault makes $1.75 million. Life is not fair.
• The Captain is making $4.75 million. And you hate to say it, but Saku Koivu is not earning the money. Yet another offensive-zone hook put Ottawa back in the game – just as Koivu’s penalty had done against the Rangers.
Is it fatigue at this stage of the season? Koivu is an older player, and we all know his heroic medical history.
Is it instability on his line? Ryder has had a nightmare season and Christopher Higgins has blown hot and cold. Sergei Kostitsyn was better off on the Kid Line.
Koivu was benched for most of the third period last night. That shouldn’t be happening to a team’s captain and leader … although the leadership role is starting to migrate one dressing room stall over to number 27.
• Chris Neil gave Andrei Markov a shot at the final siren. We’re going to see a lot of that down the stretch and into the playoffs. I’m not overly concerned, although I sometimes wish Tom Kostopoulos were three inches taller and 20 pounds heavier. It’s great to have a Chris Neil, but Brian McGrattan played three minutes last night. Tom the Bomb played 11:41. Guy Carbonneau’s insistence on rolling four lines all season may help explain the extraordinary good luck Canadiens have had with injuries.
• Speaking of pests, Maxim Lapierre has to step it up. His line, with Dandenault and Guillaume Latendresse, did nothing last night, and they barely played in the third period.
• With the Senators screening him and slapping him around, Huet made 26 saves – many of them difficult. He’s a very good goalie.
• Carbo wouldn’t tip his hand, but we’ll probably see Carey Price against Toronto tomorrow. The Leafs lost 8-0 to Florida at the ACC last night. How sad is that?
• After the game Kovy said Canadiens need 35 more points to make the playoffs. Canadiens have 67. François Gagnon thinks 94 should do it, so Canadiens need 27 points in their last 28 games.