Friday, April 25, 2008

KOstitsyn, KOvalev & KOstopoulos K-O Flyers

Alex Kovalev demonstrated excellent hand-eye coordination and discipline to bang home the 2-2 tying goal out of midair legally under the crossbar.

Thanks Pat for the AWESOME headline!

The Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers opened their 2nd round series last night in Montreal, and after coming out very flat in the 1st period, Montreal turned it on in periods 2, 3 and in overtime to steal a win that seemed destined to Philadelphia.

The Flyers and Habs were each coming off game 7 wins in the 1st round, but Montreal seemed to have the edge with an extra day of rest, on top of the fact that Philly was playing its 3rd game in 4 nights in 3 different cities.

After Montreal had 2 unlucky redirections that went off the post, Philadlephia finally got the offensive wheels turning... with a little help.

R.J. Umberger went wide around Roman Hamrlik as he entered the zone and then backhanded a cross-ice feed intended for Patrick Thoresen who was crashing the net. Thoresen was being guarded by Patrice Brisebois, and as the pass came through, Brisebois, in an attempt to deflect the puck towards the backboards, ended up deflecting the puck off the inside of the near post and in for the series-opening goal.

Shortly after, Philly's 4th line would forecheck and maintain the puck down low in the Habs zone. After a Thoresen shot hit the side of the net, Steve Downie charged for the losse puck behind the net, contoured it and centered a desperate pass out front which ended up reaching Jim Dowd alone in the slot. With Price's vision blocked by Brisebois who was guarding his man in the crease area, Dowd cranked and uncorked a perfect one-timer that tickled the twine top corner.

The second period would prove to be completely different than the first.

The Habs got their sloppyness in check during the intermission and came out gunning in the second, and at 6:32, Andrei Kostitsyn was sprung loose on a breakway but was tripped from behind, and he was awarded a penalty shot.

Kostitsyn came in on Biron, dead-center, and stickhandled quite a few moves before pulling wide left. Biron, in desperation, stuck the right pad against the post, and Kostitsyn ended up keeping the puck along the ice, therefore straight into Biron's pad for the save.

Andrei would redeem himself just over 3 minutes later.

Brother Sergei would enter the zone and stickhandled cross-ice before getting hooked down by Braydon Coburn. The puck would wind up sliding to an open Andrei Kostitsyn, who had entered the zone late as was taken down in the neutral zone, and Andrei one-timed a wrister with deadly force and accuracy that beat Biron short side.

The Habs would then tie the game on a shorthanded Kovalev goal that would need extensive review before being called.

Plekanec took a drop pass from Kovalev to enter the zone on the right-end boards. Plekanec pulled up, took a look, and wristed a hard shot right on goal, forcing Biron into making an awkward save that sent the puck high in the air and caused him to lose sight of it. Kovalev, meanwhile, was crashing the net in search of a rebound; but the rebound he found was definitely not the kind he expected. Nevertheless, Kovy used his uncanny hand-eye coordination skills to patiently wait for the puck to fall just under the crossbar before batting it home in mid-air. The play would be reviewed for about 5 minutes before the referee pointed to the ice indicating a legal goal, and an ensuing roar from the crowd erupted as the game was tied.

The Flyers would be on the tail-end of a powerplay to start the 3rd, and with under 10 seconds remaining on it, Coburn would crank up a slapper that would go off of Price's glove and would drop down at the foot of the goal. Lupul, looking for a rebound, would have that exact rebound go off of his foot in a non-kciking manner, and the puck would wind up in the net, restoring Philly's lead.

The lead would last late into the third period, but just as the Flyers tried to settle down for the win, Mike Richards would be called for kneeing as he extended the leg out to catch Kovalev as he entered the zone, sending him sprawling (and causing him to lose his helmet on the play, which so far has more often than not led to a Kovalev goal).

The Habs would go to the powerplay, and on a crucial faceoff in the offensive zone. With Price on the bench for the extra attacker, Koivu would win the draw, and in the process, Philly's centerman Jeff Carter would break his stick, making this more like a 6-on-3 powerplay. The puck would wind up in the ensuing scrum at the faceoff circle, but would miraculously squirt loose to an awaiting Alex Kovalev, who wasted no time coraling the puck and letting go a patented lightning-like wrister that beat Biron high glove side with just 29 seconds remaining.

Overtime would begin, and Carbonneau would elect to start the "Smoke and fire" line of Smolinski, Begin and Kostopoulos. The trio maintained the pressure in the offensive zone for most of their shift, and when it mattered, TK was there to finish this game before reaching the 1 minute mark of OT. Andrei Markov held in a poor clearing attempt by Sami Kapanen, and just before getting hit, would release a hard wrist shot on goal. Biron would make the save, but the rebound would come loose to Kostopolous. Kostopoulos shot, had it saved by Biron, but once again Biron offered up the rebound to Kostopoulos on the pad save; this time, Kostopoulos would forehand the winner into an open cage as Biron was still down and out of position from the previous 2 saves to win the game.

The Canadiens escape with the game 1 win, and will now prepare for game 2 on Saturday night (7 p.m.).

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