Friday, December 19, 2008

Canadiens Cool Streaking Flyers With 5-2 Win

MONTREAL (AP) -Alex Kovalev is hitting heights that are surprising him. Getting there after the worst scoring slump of his career has made it that much sweeter.

Kovalev scored a goal to reach 900 NHL points, and Sergei Kostitsyn and Steve Begin each had a goal and an assist to help the Montreal Canadiens end Philadelphia's five-game winning streak with a 5-2 victory over the Flyers on Thursday night.

The Russian right winger scored for the second game in a row. He ended his 19-game goal drought Tuesday night in Montreal's 3-2 loss in Carolina.

"I scored that first goal and now I've got 900 points," said Kovalev, who is wearing the captain's "C" while Saku Koivu is sidelined. "I can't even think about it. It's hard to really imagine that I've been in the league 16 years and I've got 900 points. It probably takes a couple of days to really realize it."

Matt D'Agostini, Kostitsyn and Begin scored in the opening period for the Canadiens, who ended a three-game losing streak. Guillaume Latendresse also scored for the second game in a row on a power play late in the third.

Jaroslav Halak made his fifth straight start for Montreal and stopped 30 shots.

Arron Asham scored in the first period and assisted on Braydon Coburn's goal in the third for Philadelphia, which had not lost in regulation in seven games (6-0-1).

"You can't win them all," Flyers center Jeff Carter said. "We got off to a slow start, but we picked it up there as the game rolled on and we got some chances. We were shooting high and wide a lot, and their goalie played well. That's about it."

Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek returned to the lineup and assisted on Kovalev's goal after missing 16 games because of a shoulder injury.

"There's no feeling like being on the ice and getting in the mix of things and stirring things up a little," said Komisarek, who dressed in street clothes and assisted the coaching staff through the first four games of Montreal's recent seven-game homestand.

There were more injury woes for the Canadiens, though. Left winger Andrei Kostitsyn missed a couple of shifts in the second period and didn't come out for the third. He was diagnosed with an undisclosed lower body injury that will be re-evaluated by the team's medical staff on Friday.

D'Agostini opened the scoring with his fifth goal 6 minutes in.

The rookie forward got behind defenseman Matt Carle and received Maxim Lapierre's long cross-ice pass from the Canadiens' zone. He drove the left side before cutting toward the net and beating Antero Niittymaki with a quick shot for his fifth goal in nine games.

"That was a good one," D'Agostini said of Lapierre's pass. "I just busted wide. I yelled for it and he saucered that one perfectly."

Kostitsyn made it a two-goal lead with a power-play goal at 10:33 when he took Robert Lang's return pass and one-timed a slap shot past Niittymaki from the left point.

Kostitsyn got his second straight point with an assist on a goal by Begin, who increased Montreal's lead to 3-0. He deflected Tom Kostopoulos' shot from the right side for his fifth of the season at 15:26.

"When I saw the puck there and T.K. going to get it, I just skated for him to shoot at an angle and he put it right on my stick, so it was an easy goal for me," Begin said.

Asham scored 32 seconds later to draw Philadelphia to 3-1.

D'Agostini hit the right post when he shot off a turnover in the Flyers' zone early in the second.

Kovalev restored the Canadiens' three-goal margin at 6:20 when he drove in on a breakaway and put a low shot past Niittymaki inside the right post.

Coburn scored his third goal 13:28 into the third to draw Philadelphia to 4-2.

Latendresse scored for the second game in a row on a power play at 18:57.

Montreal played the first of three straight home games. The Canadiens are on a 5-2-1 run at the Bell Centre during a stretch of 10 of 11 home games that included a seven-game stay that ended Saturday with a 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay. That wrapped up the longest homestand in the team's 100-year history.

Notes: Asham's point shot broke a pane of glass above the boards directly behind the Canadiens' goal 15:14 into the third. The game was delayed for 6 minutes while the maintenance crew replaced the glass and cleaned the ice. ... Philadelphia C Mike Richards ended an eight-game point streak. The Flyers captain had seven goals and eight assists in that stretch. ... Kovalev has 325 goals and 475 assists in 1,104 regular-season games with the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh and Montreal.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: SUNDIN SELECTS VANCOUVER

Mats Sundin is officially a Vancouver Canuck, joining fellow Swedes Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Mattias Ohlund and Alexander Edler.

I guess money talks after all, Mats.

No word yet on whether Sundin will play in any of Vancouver's upcoming games, or if he'll wait until after the Christmas break to make his debut. It has been previously reported that Mats would stay in Sweden with his family for the holiday period.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

You Just Can't Win If You're ALWAYS In The Box


The refs showed their teeth last night, and bit down on the Habs.

CLEARLY, I use the picture in good taste, jokingly, of course.

But no joke were the occurings on the ice in Raleigh last night.

The Canadiens wound up losing the game 3-2, but that wasn't the stat of the night.

The Canadiens were called for 11 CONSECUTIVE penalties in the game...THAT, was the stat of the night.

Now, unless your the Montreal Canadiens right now, you are more than likely going to cash in on at least one or two of those opportunities, and that's exactly what the Hurricanes did. In fact, they cashed in on three powerplays, JUST enough to win the game.

Ray Whitney picked up the only penalty for Carolina on the evening, midway through the third period, but Montreal failed to convert. .

Carolina were led by Eric Staal's two goals, and the game winner was eventually potted by Joe Corvo.

Montreal tallied on a penalty-shot marker courtesy Guillaume Latendresse, and then followed up with a shorthanded goal scored by Alex Kovalev, who in the process bumped a career-high 19-game goal-less drought.

Jaro Halak played well, but Montreal's indiscipline cost them in the long-run. Halak is likely to start again tomorrow vs. Philly, despite having dropped 3 in a row.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Habs Drop Game vs. Caps Late


The Montreal Canadiens did a lot of things right in the contest, but they can yet again attribute their loss vs. Washington Saturday night to the non-effective powerplay.

Montreal went 0-for-8 on the man-advantage and were only able to put up one goal on the evening courtesy Patrice Brisebois, who at the time in the second period tied it up, responding to a Nicklas Backstrom powerplay tally.

Michael Nylander potted the eventual game-winner with just 2:32 remaining in the third, as he backhanded a puck (while failling) and banked it in off of Jaroslav Halak's left skate.

Montreal outshot Washington 33-26.

The Caps did get strong goaltening in the contest, and from an irregular source. The Caps used their "goaltender of the future" Saturday, as both Jose Theodore (hip) and Brent Johnson (fatigue) couldn't go. Simeon Varlamov got his first NHL start and, of course, earned his first NHL win.

Jaroslav Halak is expected to start again tomorrow as Montreal visits Carolina.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Habs Douse Flames But Get Shocked By Lightning

The Montreal Canadiens played two games since our last recap here, so lets get to it.

Montreal pulled out a very impressive win vs. Calgary on a snowy Tuesday evening in Montreal...a VERY SNOWY evening.

The Habs dominated the Flames throughout the night, making the game more about speed and skill than size and strength. The Flames simply weren't able to keep up against a motivated Alex Tanguay and company.

The newly assembled big line of Robert Lang, Tanguay and Alex Kovalev was outstanding. Lang led the way with 2 goals and an assist, while Kovalev and Tanguay helped out with 2 helpers a piece.

Jaroslav Halak was brilliant in goal, turning aside 32 of 33 shots fired his way, beaten only by Dustin Boyd.

---

Jaro got the call again last night vs. Tampa Bay as Carey Price continues to battle a cold/flu. However, the outcome was totally different vs. Tampa Bay, as the Canadiens became the team being outworked, outhustled and outscored.

In an embarassing effort, Montreal fell 3-1 to the Lightning, who were led by Quebec's own Martin St.Louis and Vinny Lecavalier.

St.Louis potted 2 goals, and Vinny added the other which wound up being the game winner. He also had an assist.

Halak stopped just 19 of 22 shots fired his way in this contest, and was weak on two goals.

At the other end, Ollie Kolzig got the job done for Tampa in rare fashion to notch his second win of the season. Kolzig was busy, stopping 31 shots...and he made a couple miraculous saves to keep the puck out of the net as well.

Matt D'Agostini, who scored vs. the Flames, failed to score vs. Tampa, putting an end to his four-game goal streak.

Montreal's powerplay continues to struggle, going a combined 1-for-9 in those 2 games. They went 1-for-6 vs. Tampa.

Montreal now preps to host Washington tomorrow night. Washington, who have been playing without 10 of their regulars for a few weeks now, are reportedly set to welcome back a few of them, notably Mike Green and Alex Semin, with the possibility of Sergei Fedorov as well.

Montreal looks as if they are switching roles with Washington. Already without Mike Komisarek, they can now add three names to the injured list thanks to their last two games. Injured vs. Calgary were Mathieu Dandenault (broken arm) and Chris Higgins (shoulder). Yesterday, Saku Koivu left in the 2nd period with a lower-body injury.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Habs Prepare For Rare Flames Visit

I know I havent posted much since the Rangers pregame report, but I have been celebrating birthday festivities over the weekend, and I also had the Team 990 Christmas party to attend to, on top of working over the weekend until 3 am.

As you should know by now, Montreal crushed the Rangers 6-2 in front of myself and 21, 272 other fans in attendance, and they then dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to New Jersey.

Montreal will look to get back to their winning ways as the Flames enter the Bell Centre on Tuesday. Calgary played a very solid game last night, shutting out the Rangers in New York 3-0.

Murmers have it that Jaroslav Halak will get the start against Miikka Kiprusoff.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rangers In Town As 100-Year Countdown Begins

Today marks the 99th anniversary of the Montreal Canadiens as a franchise, and beside from the festivities going on today (i.e. unveiling of the centennial plaza), the Canadiens do have a hockey game to play tonight.

Montreal will be in tough against a solid Eastern Conference and Original Six rival, as the Rangers are atop the East standings with 38 points.

Worthy of note that New York has played 28 games already - at least three more than any other team in the East. They have an 18-8-2 record. The Rangers are fresh off a 3-2 shootout win vs. the Penguins last night, so should be riding high as they enter on a particularly special night for the Habs, trying to play spoiler.

Montreal (14-6-4) is looking to build on their 2-game home winning streak as they play the third of a franchise-record seven-game homestand.

The game can be seen tonight on RDS & CBC [HD]. No lineup changes expected for Montreal.

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.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Habs Look To Get Special Teams Going vs. Thrashers

PREGAME SHOW LIVE ON THE TEAM 990 TONIGHT, 630-730...CATCH ME AT 7!


Habs projected lines:

Andrei Kostitsyn-Saku Koivu-Matt D'Agostini
Christopher Higgins-Robert Lang-Alex Kovalev
Alex Tanguay-Tomas Plekanec-Tom Kostopoulos
Steve B├ęgin-Maxim Lapierre-Georges Laraque

Scratches: Sergei Kostitsyn, Ryan O'Byrne, Guillaume Latendresse.


The Habs will look to animate a flat-lining powerplay tonight vs the Thrashers, who have the worst penalty-killing percentage in the NHL. They've allowed 27 goals on 103 powerplay opportunities against, resulting in a dysmal 73.8% efficiency rating.

Montreal's powerplay, who for the previous two seasons ranked first, finds itself ranked 23rd in the league. The problem has been spread out, from the failure to enter the zone and setup, to the non-factor that is a shot from the point, and to the individual disappointments of key contributors like Alex Kovalev.

The game is scheduled for 7:30 pm and can be seen live on TSN and RDS, HD of course.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Canadiens Start Homestand On Right Foot

The Montreal Canadiens feel they have plenty of room for improvement despite a victorious start to the longest homestand in their 100 years of existence.


Andrei Markov scored Montreal's third goal of the second period to send the Canadiens to a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.


Andrei Kostitsyn and Steve Begin also scored in the middle period for Montreal.


"We're still up and down, we're still looking for our game and I think we can play better," Markov said.


Thomas Vanek scored twice for Buffalo to regain the NHL scoring lead from Philadelphia's Jeff Carter with 17 goals.


The Sabres have lost nine of their past 12 games (3-8-1).


"We had the lead twice and let them come back, and when you let a team as good as Montreal come back in it, chances are you're going to lose," Vanek said.


Carey Price made 26 saves to win his second in a row.


Montreal, which improved to 4-2-2 in its past eight games, began its longest homestand in team history following a 3-0 loss in Washington on Friday.


"If you look at our last six or seven games, I feel that we've played really well defensively - if you take away that game (Friday) night," coach Guy Carbonneau said.


The Canadiens will also face Atlanta, the New York Rangers, New Jersey, Calgary, Tampa Bay and Washington during their homestand, which ends Dec. 13.


Markov put Montreal ahead 18:30 into the second period when he took Saku Koivu's centering pass and beat Patrick Lalime from the slot for his third goal of the season.


"(Markov) knows how to get open and I saw him just out of the corner of my eye, but it was too late, he was already there," Lalime said.


Vanek ended a four-game goal drought to open the scoring with a highlight-reel power-play goal 13:31 in. He put his stick between his legs to tap a puck past Price from the goalmouth.


"It ended up coming to me, bouncing, and I knew that if I would just turn around and shoot it that Price is solid in there, so I had to get him off because I was in so tight," Vanek said. "I just tried to put it between my legs and it worked out."


He added his second of the game - his 17th goal to move ahead of Carter for the league lead - 7:39 into the second period to put Buffalo up 2-1.


Kostitsyn drew Montreal even at 1 with an unassisted goal 2:51 into the second. Kostitsyn fanned on his initial shot but recovered the puck to put a backhand past Lalime.


Begin drew Montreal even for the second time in the period at 13:40 as he one-timed Maxim Lapierre's pass from the left side and beat Lalime for his third goal.


"We've been practicing that every day," Begin said. "Every practice, that's all we do, Max and I, and finally it worked out, and it worked pretty good tonight."


The Sabres killed a full 2-minute 5-on-3 Canadiens power play 5:58 into the third after Jaroslav Spacek was called for holding and Adam Mair was sent off for elbowing.


Notes: Lalime stopped 31 shots. ... Sabres G Ryan Miller had appeared in 12 of Buffalo's past 13 games, including 11 starts, going 5-5-1 over that stretch. ... Canadiens LW Alex Tanguay missed his second straight game. He is day to day because of a neck injury he suffered during Wednesday's 3-1 win in Detroit.