Sunday, December 23, 2007

Thrashed in a shootout

Cristobal Huet was the savior Thursday night, and was the scape goat Saturday.

The Thrashers got on the board early with a weak goal coming from Slava Kozlov, as he came down the left wing and released a wrist shot that completely fooled Huet glove side. Perrin was also able to score on the PP after receiving a brilliant cross-crease saucer pass from Marian Hossa, who has assists on both Thrashers goals. Ilya Kovalchuk was held off the scoresheet, despite being on the ice for a whopping 23:35. Thrashers rookie defenseman Tobias Enstrom led all skaters with 29:39 of ice time.

The Habs got off to a great start. The 1st line of Higgins-Koivu-Kostitsyn got a great first shift in, nearly scoring on a few chances. The line would eventually click, as Kostitsyn was able to cash in on rebounds from Komisarek and Koivu. The goal was the rookie's 2nd in as many contests, and his speed continues to impress many Habs fans. Kovalev was able to tie the game midway through the 3rd, as he released a slap shot from his off-wing at the very end of a powerplay, which beat Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen between his body and left arm. The goal was registered as an even strength marker, and was Kovalev's 15th of the season.

The Habs outshot the Thrashers 39-28, yet were unable to capitalize on chances throughout the game. Anrei Kostitsyn was the unluckiest of all. He missed multiple chances, including an absolutely gorgeous setup from Tomas Plekanec down low. Plekanec was able to attract and stickhandle around both Thrashers defensemen, before backhanding a cross-crease pass to the awaiting Kostitsyn. Andrei was unable to catch the pass, which would have needed the simplest of touches to tickle the twine.

The Thrashers remain one of the most lethal teams in the NHL when it comes to the shootout. With such weapons like Kovalchuk and Hossa, it's already hard enough for any goaltender to even fathom making a single save. However, completing the trifecta is Slava Kozlov, who is arguably the best shootout man on the team. On this night, Kovalchuk didn't even have to step up, as the Thrashers went two-up on the Habs after 2 rounds of shooting, thus ending the game and earning them the extra point. Hossa skated in and released a lightning quick wrister that beat Huet to find the top right corner of the mesh. Koivu then missed his deke due to Lehtonen's crafty pokecheck. Up next, Kozlov resorted to his bread and butter. He skated in faked a wrister and cut wide, outwaiting the sprawling Huet and beating him top shelf. Sergei Kostitsyn then tried his luck, only to be stopped by Lehtonen who read the young Kostitsyn's deke perfectly.

The Habs board a flight for Dallas to face the Stars Sunday night at 8 p.m. Speculation has it that due to his weak performance tonight, Cristobal Huet will be given the night off in favor of rookie Carey Price. Also, Michael Ryder just may be the luckiest Hab Saturday night, as the loss might convice coach Carbonneau to re-insert him into the lineup. The match will mark the first time that the Habs and Stars meet since Ribeiro was dealt for Janne Niinimaa. Also worth noting: Captain Brendan Morrow is married to Guy Carbonneau's daughter, making him Guy's son-in-law. Just a fun fact for the loyal readers.

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