Sunday, March 23, 2008

Habs Sweep Away Big Bad Bruins

Saku Koivu was the lone-scorer in the shootout, fooling Thomas in the 3rd round to give Montreal the season-sweep over the B's.

Thanks in large part to the 16 points they earned playing and winning against Boston this season, the Montreal Canadiens are making a serious push to win BOTH the Eastern Conference and the Northeast Division Championships.

The Habs (42-24-10) now own 94 points through 76 games, leading the Penguins by one point for the lead in the Eastern Conference (though the Penguins do have a game in hand). The race for 1st in the East will be tight and difficult until the very end, but the lead for the Northeast Division is a little more secure, as the Habs now own a 5 point lead over the Ottawa Senators, who also have a game in hand. Ottawa blew a 4-2 lead vs. the Maple Leafs last night, who were able to rally late in the second and twice in the third to win 5-4 in regulation.

The Canadiens victory over Boston did not come as easy as the others last night, as it was the first game of the entire series to require overtime - and even that didn't get things solved.

The Habs got on the board early in the first - 2:20 into it to be exact - as Andrei Markov was the recipient of a Phil Kessel give-away in Boston's zone, and he leaned into a heavy slapshot that went through both Milan Lucic's and Tim Thomas' legs for the unassisted tally. It seemed as though the decision to start Thomas - who had 4 wins in 16 career starts vs. Montreal - was backfiring early.

However, the Bruins would tie the game before the period's halfway mark. Marc Savard picked up a Zdeno Chara rebound created by a Carey Price save, wrapped around the net, and outhustled Carey Price to the far post. He wound up using Price's left pad as a deflector the tuck the puck into the open side, knotting the game at 1 apiece. Maybe the Bruins were going to win one after all?

Andrei Kostitsyn had other plans for that.

1:13 after Savard's tying goal, AK 46 was able to give the Canadiens their second lead of the evening burying a Mark Streit rebound passed a sprawling Tim Thomas. The goal came at the end of a Phil Kessel penalty and was registered as an even strength goal.

The Bruins would once again respond, this time courtesy Petteri Nokelainen in the 2nd period.

Nokelainen - a game-time decision by coach Julien to center the 4th line in place of Vladimir Sobotka - wound up paying dividends, perfectly deflecting home a hard pass from Mark Stuart from the near boards. The re-direct was perfect as it beat Price who was moving away laterally on a push-off.

Despite the 2 goals allowed by each 'tender, the goaltending was absolutely stellar, providing us with lots of nervousness and entertainment throughout the remainder of regulation and through overtime.

In the shootout, it was more of the same.

Zdeno Chara tried his luck first. Skating in, Chara cranked up and released a cannon slapshot. Problem was, it was practically dead-on Carey Price. Price was able to almost just stand there to make the save.

Mark Streit was up first for Montreal. Streit came in wide-right, moved in back to center, used a couple of pump-fakes, and tried for the five hole, which was shut-down by Tim Thomas.

Phil Kessel led things off in round 2. Kessel - 5-for-11 in shootouts - went to his favorite shot: a quick release wrister. The shot was well timed and well taken, but not exactly well placed, as it beat Price but rang squarely off the crossbar.

Alex Kovalev was next to try and give Montreal a lead. Moving in, Kovalev faked right, moved in left quickly, and tried sliding the puck under Thomas. Thomas didn't bite for any of it, and was able to stick with Kovy through to the end, getting the pad down and making the save.

Dennis Wideman was a surprise shooter at #3 for the B's...but would wind up giving Price the most trouble. Wideman came in hard, down the center, then slowed his speed to about half, pulled the puck to his backhand and flicked one low right corner. The puck appeared destined for the open portion of the net, but Price's quick reflexes allowed him to stick the right-pad out in a flash and kick aside the puck, setting up Saku Koivu for a potential winning goal.

Koivu - with 21, 273 roaring all around him - came in one-on-one with Thomas. He switched the puck over to the backhand, a move we see all too often before he pulling it back to forehand and beating goalies in shootouts. As he went to backhand, Thomas took notice, and prepared himself for that trademark Koivu deke.

But Koivu played the decoy card just right.

With the puck on his backhand, Koivu held it a little longer than usual, skated in tight with Thomas, and released the backhander high and under the arm of Thomas, who seems a little shocked by Koivu's choice of shot. The puck hit Thomas and squeaked through the arm and body, crossing the goal line and sealing the deal for the Habs in the final round of the shootout.

Habs go 8-0 vs. the Bruins this regular season, and extend their winning streak over Boston to 11 straight games, surpassing the mark of 10 set in the 1944-45 season! History has been made!

Carey Price was stellar once again, totalling 33 saves. Thomas had 29 in the OTL.

The Habs now prepare for a mega-matchup vs. the Ottawa Senators Monday night at the Bell Centre. With a win, Montreal would push it's lead over Ottawa to 7 points in the Northeast Division race; although with a loss, the gap will close to 3, with Ottawa maintaining it's game-in-hand.


k_cardi said...

i missed the game...but sal, yer descriptive writing makes missing it hurt just a little less

k_cardi said...

o yeah...and didnt i say we would sweep them?

sasabainga said...

you did alright...good call!

(glad to be of visual-aid)