Habs goaltender Carey Price eyeballs the puck before grabbing it against the New York Rangers, January 15, 2010. Photo by John Kenney, The Gazette.
Things were stacked against the Canadiens in their previous game against the Pens: 2nd game in two nights; Pens looking to avenge the sloppy loss against the Bruins; Fleury looking to show up Price and give him a pose of his own. The Habs looked slow and tired that night and it showed as they took too many penalties and handed the game to the Pens. Too many penalties, a late period goal by Staal, and the Habs were done like dinner.
So coach Jacques Martin put the team through an up-tempo, loud and boisterous practice on Thursday and it seemed to pay dividends as last night the fire was back. Though they were down 1-0 after Boyle shoved a puck by Price against the post -- surely a goal Price knows he should have stopped, even if Yannick Weber should have taken the man in front -- the Habs stormed back with two strong power plays, getting goals from Hamrlik and Plekanec in subsequent opportunities before Kostitsyn -- yes that Kostitsyn, bazookad a slap shot past Lundqvist to make it 3-1. Bang bang bang in just over 3 minutes and the Habs took control of the game.
In the 2nd they maintained the pressure and if it weren't for some outstanding goaltending by Hank Lundqvist the game would have been out of reach. The Habs power play moved the puck extremely well last night. Offensive deception, as I have been calling for from the team, helped them take the lead when Subban faked a slap shot, then pulled a Markov by finding Plekanec across the ice with a terrific pass who then took the puck off his skate and put it home.
Kostitsyn scored his first goal in 10 games and it was a relief for him, the coaching staff and the fans. I've said it before, personally, he's the guy I'm hoping will score. The game always seems more exciting when he does. Last night, he had the fire burning. Now with the help of the coaching staff, he needs to find a way to stoke it and keep that fire lit. A great show of emotion from Frere Andrei after that goal. But he was all over the ice last night, winning battles, headmanning the puck and creating scoring opportunities.
Honestly, and I know it's very far from such a comparison, but last night Kostitsyn showed that of all the players on this current roster, he's as close to a Guy Lafleur as we've seen since the Flower laced them up for the bleu-blanc-rouge. Blonde hair flying, Kostitsyn moved into the Rangers zone, pulled a couple of stickhandling moves, and fired the puck with a lightning wrister that just missed. Nobody else on the Habs shows this kind of fire off the rush.
I hope he continues to build upon this and gives us this kind of effort on a consistent basis. His goal production is pretty darn important to this team. Game winning goal last night -- need I say more!?
If Lundqvist kept his team in the game in the 2nd, it was Carey Price's turn in the 3rd, which saw the Rangers make a game of it by scoring their second goal and applying a lot of pressure with 21 shots in the period. Price looked focused and determined, finally making a last second save on a shot from in close to get the important 2 points.
"The Wiz" James Wisniewski continued his solid play with two assists and gritty presence on the Habs blueline, garnering the player the 1st star as voted on by the fans.
Habs are now 5-1-1 in their last seven, 2 points behind the Bruins in the 7th spot in the conference. They're two points up on the Thrashers but also have 2 games in hand on that team.
Next game is Monday against the Calgary Flames at the Bell Centre.