Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Islanders

The Habs fourth win in a row (after losing 5 games in a row), 3-2 on an overtime goal by Roman Hamrlik, was pretty much like their season so far in that it had its ups and downs. Considering that they had just defeated the Islanders 5 nights previous by a score of 5-1 many fans (and maybe even members of the team) might have been expecting a similar result. It certainly wasn't as easy the second time around with the Islanders playing a much more solid game and the Habs not playing as well as they had the first time.

One of the ups was that Jaroslav Halak (starting his fourth game in a row) showed his coach's wisdom of selecting him to start again by playing another good game in nets. If there were any doubts about this guy's durability or focus that went out the window after he made a great save a mere 1:32 into the game off Islander winger Matt Moulson. During the first 10 minutes of the 1st period as his teammates still looked a bit sleepy Halak made a couple of nice saves while the Habs were being outshot 8-3.

Halak's strong play continued throughout the game. What you notice about this guy is how square he is to the puck. At least a dozen of the 31 shots he faced hit him square on the chest allowing him to easily smother the puck. Positioning was great as was rebound control. Don't be surprised if this guy gets the start again in Pittsburgh Wednesday night.

A down was the weak play of two players who should be important contributors to the team. Andrei Kostityn and Hal Gill heard a smattering of boos from fans last night. And I cannot say it was undeserved. Now, I am not one who supports booing at any time (I don't see how it is at all helpful), but if you were going to do it these two deserved it. Kostityn was invisible last night (only recording one shot) as he has been for most of the season. It seems incredible that someone with that much talent and a great shot can have such little effect on games. His slump was obvious by the fact that Jacques Martin started him on the 4th line with Kyle Chipchura and Matt D'Agostino. Not a good sign for an offensive player. Hal Gill was supposed to add size on the defensive corps and he has, but he has also added plenty of errors. Because he is immobile he either coughs up the puck or is made to look like a human pylon like he was on the Islanders' second goal by Jeff Tambellini.

On the plus side, even though the big line of Gionta-Gomez-Cammalleri did not have any goals the Habs were able to create secondary scoring via their defence (Roman Hamrlik and Jaroslav Spacek) and other lines (Travis Moen). To be considered a playoff team the Canadiens cannot rely solely on their top line for all their scoring, so it is good to see players like Travis Moen, Tomas Plekanec and Glen Metropolit chipping in with the odd goal or assist.

Another weak aspect of the game and I cannot fault either team for this was the refereeing. Ugh! That about sums it up folks. Too many borderline calls and missed calls marred the game. When it is not the ref two feet away from the play, but rather the one at the blue line (almost 60 feet away) who calls a penalty you kinda have to question it. Several of the Habs 7 penalties were deserved (especially the 2 too many men on the ice penalties), but others were borderline calls. Also, just before the Islanders tying goal in the 3rd the referee missed a stick above the shoulders call that happened right in front of him.

The final up for me was the play of Glen Metropolit. Despite the fact that he was under the weather with cold symptoms he still managed to play well. Metropolit is a great 4th line centre. He is not the most talented guy on the team, but he certainly is one of the smartest. Metropolit rarely makes boo boos because of his good hocky smarts. Of the two assists he got last night the one for the pass he made to Spacek for the first goal was a thing of beauty. One final stat about Metropolit is that the team is 5-0 in the games this guy has played.

A sign of a good team is that they are able to win against inferior competition even when they don't play their best. The Canadiens definitely played down to the Islanders' level, but managed to eke out an overtime victory anyways to keep their winning streak alive. They have to know, however, that they are going to need a much stronger and more consistent effort against the Stanley Cup defending Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

Game Stats:
On-Ice Officials: Referees: Stephane Auger and Tim Peel
Linesmen: Thor Nelson and Andy McElman
-Goals: 1st Period:
13:34 – Montreal – Jaroslave Spacek assisted by Glen Metropolit and Travis Moen
2nd Period:
18:18 – New York – (pp) Jeff Tambellini assisted by Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo
3rd Period:
7:44 – Montreal – Travis Moen assisted by Mike Cammalleri and Glen Metropolit
15:44 – New York – (pp) Jeff Tambellini assisted by Matt Moulson
Overtime:
1:32 – Montreal – Roman Hamrlik assisted by Tomas Plekanec
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 31
New York: 31
-3 Stars: 1) Travis Moen – Montreal
2) Jeff Tambellini – New York
3) Roman Hamrlik – Montreal

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