Game 64: Canadiens romp over Thrashers

Updated at 10:34 p.m. with all audio

Carey Price keeps a close eye on a flying puck.
Christinne Muschi, Reuters

Lineups | Preview | Game Summary | Event Summary | Boxscore | Boone | Post-Game Audio: Carbonneau | Player Audio (from RIS): Price, Lapierre, Koivu, Bégin, Higgins | Ryder

After spending the day holding their breath awaiting the blockbuster trade that never came, Canadiens fans are getting used to the look of the team that now will bear down on the stretch run to the playoffs.

And a 5-1 Bell Centre victory tonight over the Atlanta Thrashers was not a bad way at all to start.

First star Christopher Higgins scored two goals and added an assist and goaltender Carey Price, the second star of the night, made 26 saves to earn the win, the Canadiens exploding for four third-period goals to win going away.

It was fitting that tonight’s game against the Thrashers, supposedly the Canadiens’ trading-deadline dance partner, began the Habs’ 19-game sprint to the postseason.

With Price, Montreal’s newly anointed No. 1 goalie, in the Montreal net, and a new backup goaler and a flashy forward up this afternoon from Hamilton – respectively Jaroslav Halak and Mikhail Grabovski – the Canadiens had their way with the Thrashers to snap a two-game losing streak in wrapping up a four-game homestand.

Montreal outshot their visitors 33-27.

Canadiens forward Maxim Lapierre, rumoured to be part of a package that was offered to/demanded by Atlanta earlier in the day for their coveted star Marian Hossa, put Montreal on the scoreboard with his fifth of the season at 10:18 of the first period. Foiled first by Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen at the side of the net, Lapierre dug the puck out and scored on a nice second-effort backhand.

Price was very steady in goal, making 11 saves to the nine made by Lehtonen through the first 20 minutes.

Thrashers’ Ilya Kovalchuk tied the game at 1-1 on the power play at 2:04 of the second, for all intents and purposes a 5-on-3 with Andrei Markov in the penalty box and defender Steve Bégin having lost his stick. Kovalchuk whipped home his 41st of the season from just inside the faceoff circle, using Canadiens defenceman Mike Komisarek to partially screen Price.

The Thrashers outshot Montreal 10-8 in the second to hold a 21-18 lead through two.

The Canadiens jumped back into the lead on the power play at 2:10 of the third period, Higgins scoring his 20th of the season on a beautiful cross-crease pass from still-here Michael Ryder, who’d been set up by captain Saku Koivu. It was the 200th NHL point registered by Ryder, who’d been the centre of virtually every Habs trade rumour the past month.

Higgins added his 21st – Koivu did a nice bit of stickhandling, which led to an attempted shot by Markov that finally Higgins corralled and shovelled in from just in front of Lehtonen.

Higgins then engineered a perfect cross-ice pass to Markov, who pinched in for his 13th of the season at 8:17, once again on the power play.

Sergei Kostitsyn closed out the scoring when he bagged his seventh on a bullet wrist shot at 9:04, fed from the Canadiens zone by Guillaume Latendresse.

The Canadiens improved their season record to 34-21-9, while the Thrashers dropped to 29-31-4. It was the first of four games between the teams this year that didn’t go to a shootout, Atlanta having won two of those.

The Habs are in Buffalo on Friday to take on the Sabres before returning home Saturday to host the New Jersey Devils.

466 Comments

  1. mjames says:

    Please let it go. we won another game tonight. Let me translate: we are better off with Price and Halak and no Hossa.

    mjames

  2. Rugger says:

    Apparently someone found the real Higgins and got rid of the stand-in today

  3. Chuck V. says:

    And why not? Along with Price, I think he got a big vote of confidence from the organization today when Gainey (apparently) refused to part with him for Hossa. That can do a lot for a guy’s confidence

  4. the_vipah says:

    You can’t tell me that Price and Halak are better when:
    a) Price has played equal parts #1 goalie and equal parts ECHL caliber goalie this year.
    b) Halak hasn’t had a full NHL game since last year.

    Anyways Huet has tons of international experience and was goaltender of the year several times in the Swiss league. Hes also in the top 5 for save percentage since the lockout ended in the NHL.

    Right now, at this moment in time, Huet is much better then either of our rookies. We’ll see what happens now I guess.

  5. Chorske says:

    Nice work lads.

    Let’s get Higgy the hat trick!!

  6. The Teacher says:

    Man, did I call Higgins’ performance tonight or what 😀

  7. Blitzen says:

    Higgy is playing like a man relieved tonight.
    _____________________________________________________
    Remember February 19th: The Comeback

  8. Chuck V. says:

    Pick your poison, I suppose. Hopefully that line gains confidence again and we have 2 #1 lines going into the playoffs

  9. linp says:

    Higgins is the only one stands in front of the net.

  10. Blitzen says:

    Paddock will be gone by midnight…
    _____________________________________________________
    Remember February 19th: The Comeback

  11. Mr.Hazard says:

    My ability to be excited has been severely injured by the loss of my dear Huet…

    Ex nihilo nihil fit

  12. TripleX says:

    That is great, good for Higgins. I am very happy that line is back together. Watching the Senators on TSN, they look absolutely awful.

  13. Norm0770 says:

    Agree 100%

  14. Blitzen says:

    The reason the Koivu line is scoring is that other teams are keying on the Pleks line as the #1 line.

    I like Price tonight.
    _____________________________________________________
    Remember February 19th: The Comeback

  15. Chuck V. says:

    Price and Halak are both better than Huet in my opinion, and I’m not sure we needed the injury-prone Ruutu at Lats’ expense. I know a lot of people like to criticize Gui but he’s only 20 and as a big guy will take a little bit more time to develop. As shown with Kostitsyn Senior, a little patience can lead to great rewards

  16. Chorske says:

    Oh wow, Higgins from Ryder & Koivu. So nice to see that combination racking up the points again.

    Meanwhile, if anyone’s seen Plekanec, could someone please remind him that there are these things called hockey games he’s supposed to be playing in.

  17. Norm0770 says:

    Agree 100%

  18. Blitzen says:

    HIGGYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!

    _____________________________________________________
    Remember February 19th: The Comeback

  19. the_vipah says:

    The Huet trade was a waste, again I’ll say that we lost him for nothing now and no longer have the insurance that keeping him down the stretch would have provided.

    The attempt to get Hossa was a huge mistake. He is the last kind of player we need. We need a tough scoring forward. We have enough guys like Hossa who dissapear when hit (pretty much the entire roster of forwards we currently have would fall into that category). A move for a guy like Tuomo Ruutu who was had for Andrew Ladd (read: Lats) would have done wonders.

    Anyways Price imo is probably 1-2 full seasons from being a solid #1, so its time to dig in and deal with another 160+ games of agony.

  20. Rugger says:

    So glad Ryder is still a Hab

  21. Blitzen says:

    Man we should be doing better against the Thrashers minus Hossa.

    Well at least Higgy scores to put us ahead.
    _____________________________________________________
    Remember February 19th: The Comeback

  22. Chuck V. says:

    You know what the more time goes by, the more I’m starting to like what transpired today. Let me explain:

    Everyone says that we are turning it over to a goalie who has no playoff experience in Carey Price, but Huet has played in 1 NHL playoff series and has a 2-4 record. Huet probably wouldn’t have re-signed, and if he had he’d have been pretty expensive to keep. We can use that money to lure a nice free agent in the summer, or re-sign or RFA’s.

    Also, this move will do wonders for Carey Price as he knows now that he’s the man and he’ll have the net for the rest of the year. Where he would have to worry about Huet in the past, now he knows it’s his team.

    As for Hossa, while I was all for getting him and was really pissed when we didn’t, the price to pay was far too high. I was a fan of some of the proposed trades, but to match Pittsburgh’s offer would have been too much without having Hossa locked up long-term.

    In the end, I think that this is not a bad situation for the team to be in. We have a young team that can gain experience together. I really like that we didn’t shake up the core of the team too much and I think that a team that grows together ultimately wins together. While Hossa would have vaulted us into legitimate contender status, we are now still in a position to make some noise and we know that our best days are ahead of us.

    It took some serious balls for Bob to do what he did today (either way, getting Hossa or standing pat) and I think the only real disappointment is not getting more for Huet.

  23. wd40 says:

    what’s the story with O’Byrne and Komisarek? I heard they were both hurt at one point. OK, scratch that, 3rd just started and they’re both back.

  24. wd40 says:

    are we back online? :) man, i was suffering some serious withdrawl there.

  25. Elbacky says:

    Anywhere to watch this game online?

  26. Elbacky says:

    Anywhere to watch this game online?

  27. 1010 says:

    Well said. It’s all water under the bridge. Giving up a lot for a rental very seldom, if ever, works. Huet was a good guy but they weren’t going to re-sign him anyway. Bob abviously feels Price is ready. The future is now!

    GO HABS.

  28. cautiousoptimist says:

    Also, Lats-Laps-Begin – talk about an irritating line to play against.

    http://www.flickeringpictures.com

  29. nick says:

    looks like they made a line change.
    K2 , Grabs , Higgins.

    Price is looking sharp toinght.

    Man that Grabovski can move.

  30. Forlando says:

    ouchies ..sorry for the triple post…don’t know how that happened

  31. Forlando says:

    Just got home….could someone tell me what are our lines l tonite? thanks

  32. Rugger says:

    Laps 1 Hossa 0

  33. Forlando says:

    Just got home….could someone tell me what are our lines l tonite? thanks

  34. The Teacher says:

    Well, Gainey pretty much made it clear that he didn’t think Huet had the tools in the end. He would not resign him in the summer and thus it made sense on several fronts to go with a Price/Halak tandem.

    1. We have marked Price as our guy, with Halak a noticeable second. If they are our guys, they might as well be the ones getting the experience. I would rather have Price get 1 or 2 series in the playoffs down the give it to Huet who will leave. Thus rendering Price in the same position as he is this year.

    2. Huet was leaving no matter which way you put in. Considering Burkie had to put Bryzygalov on waivers, a 2nd isn’t too bad. We all would like a 1st, but, the market isn’t good for goalies right now.

    3. Now there is no uncertainty among the players, they know who their guy is. They will have to hold themselves responsible if they let young kids out to dry.

    Ryder did not go because we NEED him now. He was only going if we picked up a 1st or 2nd line forward.

    As for Hossa. I’m glad we didn’t get him. Gave up a lot and I find it hard to believe Pittsburgh will resign him.

    Anyways, let’s see the reaction among the players today. I think Higgins will bring it as will Ryder for some reason.


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