Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Montreal Survives Scare To Beat Thrashers

The Montreal Canadiens played a rock-solid game last night vs. Atlanta - for the most part.

For the OTHER part, Atlanta pushed back...and how!

Montreal jumped out to a three-goal lead to start the second period, on goals by Matt D'Agostini (1st career NHL goal), Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Markov (powerplay!), but almost midway through the 3rd period, all hell broke loose.

First, former 1st round pick by Montreal Ron Hainsey benefitted from a bench error, where Georges Laraque claims he didn't hear his line called out and forgot to jump on the ice. Effectively a 5-on-4 even-strength opportunity (kind of an oxymoron, I know), Hainsey was free to take two hefty slappers on goal, and scored on the second one.

52 seconds later, Ron Hainsey was at it again. Tom Kostopoulos took a hooking call somewhere in between those 52 seconds, and Hainsey crashed the net to clean up a Bryan Little rebound. The goal was reviewed as it BARELY crossed the red line, but the call on the ice stood and a goal was awarded.

SEVEN seconds after that, off the ensuing faceoff, Kovalchuk tipped to Reasoner, who then sent a perfect pass to Chris Thorburn, who then fired the puck into the net.

The goals set two franchise records for Atlanta: Fastest 3-goal burst (59 sec) and 2-goal burst (7 sec).

Montreal, with all the momentum against them at this point, were crumbling. They needed a boost, fast.

They got it, courtesy lazy neutral-zone board play by Atlanta's defensemen.

Andrei Kostitsyn was able to pick up a loose puck which should have been scooped up by any of the two Thrashers who were close to it. Instead, AK46 cashed in on their hesitation, and took the puck in on a 2-on-1 with Matt D'Agostini. Tobias Enstrom sprawled out to block the pass, but wound up redirecting the puck with his body through Johan Hedberg's legs, putting the Habs up 4-3 on the goal credited to Andrei Kostitsyn.

Robert Lang added an empty netter (after missing one) on a feed by Alex Kovalev, tipping the puck out of midair.

Thank goodness he did.

With 20 seconds remaining, and the game apparently iced, Jason Williams took a pass from Ilya Kovalchuk and unloaded an absolutely perfect shot shortside, over Price's left shoulder nailing the top corner.

But, in the end, Atlanta's never-say-die effort was valiant, but was also too little, too late.

Both teams went 1-for-3 on the powerplay. Carey Price stopped 22 shots; Hedberg turned aside 28. Andrei Kostitsyn led the way with a goal and two helpers for Montreal, while Ron Hainsey turned in his first multi-goal game and added an assist.

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