The Montreal Canadiens clinched the Northeast title for the first time in 16 years and did it in convincing fashion as they dominated the struggling Senators for 60 minutes and skated away from Kanata with a 3-0 victory. Carey Price earned his 3rd shutout of the season leaving no question that he is the Canadiens' goaltender of the future.
The Canadiens played their game of fast paced fore-checking hockey capitalizing on a relatively slower Ottawa defence. The Canadiens' speed in the early going of the first led to 3 penalties including a 5 on 3 where the Canadiens' leading scorer Alex Kovalev backhanded a bullet top shelf to beat Martin Gerber at the 9:24 mark of the opening period. The Sens were relegated to only 6 shots in the first 20 minutes.
The second period saw a Sens team with more life as well as the Canadiens taking 3 penalties of their own, but The Habs' defence, supposedly depleted with the injuries to Mike Komisarek and Francis Boullion, were up to the task. As was a stellar Carey Price who was in top form as he faced a much busier 2nd period. The only goal of the period, in a way, also included Price whose stickhandling strengths are starting to make the rest of the league stand up and take notice. The young goaltender fed a clearing pass onto the stick of Maxime Lapierre who in turn passed it to Guillaume Latendresse which eventually led to Mathieu Dandenault's 9th of the season. No official assist for Price but there would have been no goal without him.
The third period was much anticipated by fans from both sides as the Sens trailed by only 2 goals and were surely reminded of their 4 goal comeback attempt the last time these two teams met. The problem for the Senators was that the Habs remembered that night also. Although the Sens made a valiant effort with 16 shots in the 3rd, including a failed 5 on 3 attempt, it was the Canadiens' Andre Kostitsyn who put the nail in the Senators' coffin with his 26th of the year, when he was fed by none other than Alex Kovalev who flirted with the blue line while ensuring that the puck never crossed over until he found his comrade open and alone in front of Gerber.
Points to Ponder:
You now know the Canadiens clinched the Northeast division as well as scored 100 points, but did you know that this is the 16th time in the team's 100 years that the 100+ points plateau has been reached? Well done boys.
Alex Kovalev scored his team leading 35th goal of the season. If that isn't something to reflect upon, the Habs haven't had a 35+ goal scorer on the team since 1995-96, when Pierre Turgeon and Vincent Damphousse tied for the team lead with 38 each.
I think the Montreal Canadiens's coaching staff should continue keeping Mathieu Dandenault locked up and angry and then release him during a pivotal game when you need that extra goal.
With Ottawa's loss and Washington's win last night, it is conceivable that if the moons align just right, the Sens could be eliminated from playoff contention, the first time in 12 years.
There was an April fool's rumour floating through Montreal that apparently had Kirk Muller coming out of retirement to replace injured Saku Koivu. While the joke was on everyone who lent it credence, one couldn't help but wonder how Kaptain Kirk could have helped ten fold in the face-off department.
Enough said. Two more games to go before the big dance. The Habs take on the newly eliminated Buffalo Sabres on Thursday and then face the team that eliminated that said team this Saturday, the Mapleleafs. The Habs wont be taking these games too lightly. When asked to reflect about the year's accomplishments and whether 1st place in the East was a real goal for him, Coach Carbonneau had this to say:
"We achieved a lot, 100 points, first in our division, I don't think we thought about it in September," "With two games to go, first in our conference is still there, so, why not?"