Sorry for the minor layoff, but it IS the holidays after all...
So, incase you have forgotten, THEY DID IT!!!! The Habs BEAT the Florida Panthers, for the 1st time in their last 6 contests...and BEAT is an understatement.
Montreal got on the board early and often once again, keeping pace from their game on the previous night with the other Floridian team, the Tampa Bay Lightining. In fact, The Habs scored 3 goals on their first 3 registered shots of the game! Tomas Vokoun was rattled so badly that he was pulled immediately following the third goal. Latendresse got on the board first, on a nice (possibly accidental) feed from Roman Hamrlik who pinched into the slot. Then, a gorgeous 2-on-0 play saw Ryder dish off to Higgins, who then sent a perfect one-touch return pass to Ryder for the easy tip-in. Then, all but 13 seconds after that goal, Ryder and Lapierre forechecked the Panthers hard enough in their own zone to eventually steal it, and Lapierre sent a great pass across to Higgins, who made no mistake pulling Vokoun out to challenge and then beating him far top corner with a wrist shot. Huet was absolutely stellar once again, stopping 40 of 41 shots fired his way. Huet now leads the league in save% at .931, just ahead of Osgodd's .930. Only Olli Jokinen was able to get one by Huet late, on a botched clearing attempt from Mike Komisarek. Jokinen swatted at an airborne puck, and got lucky, being able to get it passed Huet.
Everything went well in this one, except for the fact that Ryan O'Byrne injured his thumb and will likely be out of action anywhere bewteen 3-6 weeks. O'Byrne injured himself in a fight which was deemed as a useless one, with the Habs up 4-0 at the time. Corey Locke has been recalled and will join the team tonight in New York, and should be inserted. Locke, 23, is the new all-time leading point-getter, after registering a goal in last night's 4-3 loss to the Marlies. He has 180 career AHL points, passing Bulldogs' former player Brian Swanson.
The Habs end off their longest trip of the season tonight with a visit to the red hot New York Rangers. New York has won 2 straight against Carolina and Toronto, and look to build momentum heading into the new year. Jaromir Jagr has gotten back on track in those 2 wins, potting 3 goals and 3 assists in that span. Prior to the Carolina win, Jagr hadn't scored in 10 consecutive outings. However, Jagr runs into Cristobal Huet tonight, who lately has had a real knack for keeping the superstars off the pointsheet.
The Habs are 3-1-1 thus far on their 6 game road trip, which is quite impressive when looking at the margins of victory in those wins. With each win, the Habs scored 5 times, and allowed 5 goals combined. Huet has kept Lecavalier, Richards, St.Louis, Kovalchuk and Hossa off the scoresheet, and tonight will hope to keep top guns Gomez and Jagr at bay as well.
The Rangers are 6th worst in goals for with 93(despite the 6-1 blowout win last night in Toronto), but are 4th BEST in goals allowed, with just 91. That is a huge reason why the Rangers are even in a playoff position right now. As a matter of fact, a lot can change with just a couple of night's action. 5th seed Pottsburgh have 42 points, while 13th seed Toronto are only 4 points behind at 38.