Atlanta Vs. Montreal: Welcome Back From Your All Star Break Scott Gomez

Atlanta Vs. Montreal: Welcome Back From Your All Star Break Scott Gomez
Montreal Canadiens Win 3-1

What’s Being Talked About Around The Bell Centre?
Before tonight’s game, Montreal was in 6th place with 87 points in the Eastern conference, tied with the Rangers. The Canadiens had lost their last three and haven’t even scored a goal in those defeats, and a record of four wins and six losses in their last ten. Atlanta was in 11th place with 76 points in the Eastern conference, just barely hanging on to playoff hopes. They were nine points out of a playoff spot and had seven games remaining. They beat the Ottawa Senators in their last game and were 6-3-1 in their last ten.

In a pre-game interview, captain Brian Gionta reassured everyone that there wasn’t any panic, but there should be urgency in the dressing room. The captain and the rest of the players had to fix the lack of discipline creeping into their game. The Canadiens are 30th in the league with the most time played short-handed and they lead the league with 13 too many men on the ice penalties.

The Thrashers were hoping to run the table and try to sneak into the playoffs. Dustin Byfuglien had to step up his game were to make a run. He had 41 points going into the All Star game but only 11 since. He is still 4th in points for all defencemen but his name has fallen off many pundits Norris Trophy ballots. One Thrasher who had raised his game is Blake Wheeler. In 58 games with the Bruins he only had 27 points, but since the trade he has 15 points in 16 games. Ben Maxwell is making his way back onto the Bell Centre ice tonight after getting his first goal and first assist in the win against Ottawa. Bryan Little came into tonight’s game with a point in his past 3 games.

Tonight’s starting goaltenders were Carey Price, who was looking for his 35th win of the season, and Ondrej Pavelec who was trying to win his 21st. Pavelec loves playing the Canadiens as he is a lifetime 2-0 with a 1.466 goals against average and a 0.960 save percentage.

The Game Itself:
As the Canadiens came down the tunnel, Jacques Martin was clapping furiously trying to pump up his men. This may be the first and last time you see any public pregame emotion from Martin. Before the puck was dropped the crowd gave Bill Mccreary a loud cheer to recognize his last game in Montreal. It was one of the few times that the Montreal fans have cheered for an official.

The first period turned out to be the best period the Canadiens have played in the last ten days. Carey Price got the momentum on the Habs side and the crowd energized with a huge save in the first fifteen seconds of the period on Byfuglien. Then the Gionta, Gomez, Darche line came out. It was their first shift on a night where all three played their best games in a long time. Darche was the key, as he opened up lots of skating room for his linemates and constantly crashed the net. Gionta had a chance in the first minute and the line continued to dominate the Kane, Antropov, Burmistrov line for the Thrashers. The early parts of the period were open with Price making a save on a half-break by Eric Boulton. Pavelec returned the favour with a save on Cammalleri’s version of his half break. The period flowed with the Canadiens skating like they haven’t in the past three games. Their skating lead to the night’s first penalty on Rob Schremp with a hooking call on Lars Eller.

Coming into tonight’s matchup the Canadiens were 10th in the league on the power play and the Thrashers were 28th in the league killing penalties. But Atlanta was able to kill the penalty only giving up one chance on a point shot to Wisniewski which beat Pavelec only to hit the post. Once again coach Martin showed his unwillingness to play Wisniewski and Subban together on the point opting to play Mara with Subban on the second power play unit. Even with the Canadiens dominating the period, Carey Price came up with three big saves. And then the constant pressure and a whole team crashing the net lead to a goal by Roman Hamrlik. A point shot from Wisniewski was covered by Pavelec and after jam attempt by Halpern and Cammalleri, Hamrlik slipped the puck in the net. It was Hamrlik’s 5th goal with assists to Halpern and Cammalleri.

Then as we attempted to listen to the goal announcement, Scott Gomez stole the puck from behind the Thrashers net and feed Darche on the doorstep and Mathieu Darche made it 2-0. Darche scored his 10th goal from Gomez only 11 seconds after Hamrlik’s. The goals ended the scoring drought of over 199 minutes. Tom Pyatt scored the last goal for the Habs on March 20th against the Wild. The period continued with it’s fast pace with Gomez beating everyone to the puck and constantly creating chances. With over a minute left in the period Travis Moen and Chris Thorburn got into a little scuffle and both get their punches in. The period ended with the crowd abuzz and the Canadiens leading the Thrashers on the scoreboard 2-0 and with the shots on net 14 to 7. It was Hamrlik’s first goal in 32 games and Halpern’s 200 assists in his 791st game.

If the first period was the Canadiens’ best period in a while, then the second period was just ‘okay’. There wasn’t the same jump, the same atmosphere and the same intensity as there was to start the first period. After four minutes, Desharnais, White and Pouliot combined to create a scoring chance but Pavelec shut the door. The period continued with both teams skating hard but not creating any chances. Blake Wheeler had his chance to open the scoring for Atlanta, but Price denied him. Shortly after, Martin and the bench were called for another too many men on the ice penalty. That penalty can be added to league leading 308 minor penalties. Atlanta’s power play was 11th in the league but they failed to create any chances.

After the kill, the Gionta line once again created havoc for the Thrashers and forced Tim Stapleton to flip the puck into the crowd earning a delay of game penalty. Wisniewski and Hamrlik started the power play, with Mara and Subban on the second unit. The power play just didn't look right the whole night. Pavelec came up big on 2 more chances for both Halpern and Cammalleri. Pavelec was definitely the workhorse this period as Price hardly saw any rubber. Another power play came and went for the Habs and the last 5 minutes of the period are played in the neutral zone. The period ended with Montreal still leading 2-0 and out shooting Atlanta 24 to 18.

If the second period was ‘okay’ for the Canadiens then the third period reminded everyone of all the periods in the past three games. Lack of discipline, lack of defensive coverage and a general unwillingness to skate crept back into their game. Only a handful of Canadiens decided to play the third period, and everyone was lucky that Price was one of them. He made countless saves on Schremp, Kane and Wheeler. Atlanta realized that this might have been their last shot at the playoffs and opened everything up. This did create some openings for the Habs with the Gionta line and specifically Gomez creating scoring opportunities.

The Thrashers forecheck came on stonger and lead to a chippiness in the game. Gomez and Kane got into a shoving match leading to double minors. PK drew a Ron Hainsey penalty only to get one himself by embellishing the trip and pirouetting much like a soccer player would. After the four on four was finished, Atlanta had much more of the momentum, and were beating the Habs to most pucks. A crisscross play by Eric Boulton and Nik Antropov, lead to Boulton’s stick getting up into Hal Gills face. Distracted and unable to locate the puck, Gill lost not only his man but his whereabouts and this enbled Boulton to walk in, center to Antroov who buried the first Atlanta goal. The officials come together to discuss their obvious missed call of the high stick on Gill who was bloodied but the goal stood and the tension reappeared on the Habs' faces.

Both teams drew penalties but no goals were scored. The next five minutes were dominated by the Thrashers. Price came up big with keys saves. The saves seemed to change the pace of the game and the Canadiens began to skate again turned the tied back in their favour. The last five minutes of the game was spent in the neutral zone. The Thrashers pulled Pavelec at the 1:25 mark, only to see Andrei Kostitsyn score his 20th from Paul Mara into the empty net 5 seconds later. The goal capped a good performance by Kostitsyn, who was one of the few Habs who played hard the entire game.

The game finished with Montreal wining by a 3-1 margin. Some of the Canadiens shook Mccreary’s hand once again showing their appreciation. The three stars as chosen by the fans were Price, Darche and Hamrlik, but Gomez and Kostitsyn also deserved recognition. Gomez had his best game since the All Star break, only a week after he was the subject of one of George Prax's blogs. It was a win for the Canadiens but all didn’t go as planned as the team really only had one good period: the first. Only a handful of players showed up for the entire game which has to worry the Canadiens coaching staff. A win is a win and two points is always a cure for a losing streak, but something must be done before the playoffs start. If nothing changes in the next two weeks, April will be a very short month for Montreal.

The Numbers:
Montreal outshot Atlanta 31 to 28. James Wisniewski lead all skaters with over 24 minutes of ice time. Carey Price recorded his 35th win, second to only Roberto Luongo’s 36. Ron Hainsey, the ex-Canadien was on the ice for over 23 minutes.

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Shahab Khan (the Schoolboy)

Comments

George Prax's picture

Not a perfect game for the Habs but I'll take it. Again, it's totally indicative of all the problems with this team. Score two goals in 10 seconds? Take the rest of the night off and play defensively. Should be pretty clear who's at fault for that. You're right though, if changes aren't made, it's going to be a short month of April. But what can they really change? No more trades, Hamilton is depleted, not going to fire the coach 77 games in. I think I'd rather just take the 1st round exit like a man and hope that if not Gauthier, then Molson and the people around him can wake up and smell the coffee.