Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ole Ole Ole Ole Ole Ole

I was trying to come up with a title for the Habs' amazing five-goal comeback to win 6-5 in a shootout over the shell shocked Rangers before an energized home crowd. This was the best I could do.

I mean what can you really say. History was made up north as neither the Blueshirts nor the Habs had ever been part of something so crazy before. When MSG flashed the note that the Original Six club had never lost after leading by five, you just knew it wasn't a good sign. Likewise, Les Habitants had never ever comeback to win from five back in their rich history.

Normally, I'd be upset about the Rangers somehow failing to pickup what seemed to be a sure two points but I'm just not mad about it for some reason. There's more important things to not be happy about than some silly wacky game. That's really all it is in the grand scheme of things.

Let's credit the Canadiens for showing as much heart as I've ever seen in never giving up and actually believing they could still comeback and pull that out after three quick Ranger goals chased rookie Carey Price.

I've been on this team for a while and nothing I saw tonight changed my mind. Truth be told, that's the best club in the entire conference. They skate better than anyone. Have the deepest crop of forwards and a very active D which can make life a nightmare when for defenses pinning the opposition in with an aggressive forecheck.

Does anyone boast a better fourth line than these Habs? I haven't seen it. When you can send out the ever dangerous Michael Ryder (10 healthy scratches and still the best forward on this night with two goals sparking the comeback), two-way threat Mark Streit (goal, two helpers) and the gritty Maxim Lapierre, it's going to be a huge advantage. That trio along with the banging of energizer Steve Begin and underrated defender Mike Komisarek changed the game as did the fans.

Most teams fall behind by five and pack it in. Never have I seen such a vocal crowd influence their home players the way these Habs responded. Those Canadien supporters believed their team could still comeback and win even when Brendan Shanahan and Chris Drury made it 5-0 28 seconds apart early in the second.

What they got was the kind of inspired comeback which could make their team believe it can win the whole thing. Why the heck not? They have two solid goalies. Cristobal Huet was fantastic in relief of Price, who really was victimized by a lackluster start by his teammates.

The Rangers didn't exactly let up when they got to five. They easily could've had a couple of more if not for a couple of very timely stops by Huet, who steadied to make 20 saves giving his more desperate team a chance.

For as great as the Blueshirts played the first 25 minutes was as brutal and lost as they looked the rest of the night. Bruised and battered all over the ice by a more physical and faster team, they paid the price for not putting a pesky opponent away. Did I really just say that?!?!?!?!?!

The key sequence in this contest was two consecutive lightning Montreal strikes only nine seconds apart which sliced the deficit to 5-4 with still 13:08 left in regulation. Their leader Alex Kovalev connected one-timing a hard Andrei Markov pass just through Henrik Lundqvist over the goal line. If there was one King Henrik would've liked back, it was that one.

That the Habs could then basically skate in untouched with Ryder's seeing eye shot getting a piece of Streit's leg to ricochet past a stunned Lundqvist was a crusher. Tom Renney had already taken their timeout when Ryder tallied twice 4:24 apart in the second to make it a three-goal contest.

The Rangers just couldn't hang on and were done in by a mistimed Marek Malik hooking penalty which led to a scintillating Kovalev equalizer with 4:22 remaining. Somehow, off a broken play, he got a powerful one-timer off an Andrei Kostistyn setup in the left slot for his 29th sending the Montreal crowd into a frenzy.

It was a period earlier where these same cuckoo fans tossed debris on the ice. Some sort of ridiculous giveaway which was tossed cause they didn't like a legitimate high sticking call on Komisarek.

The OT was mostly Montreal as they pressed for the winner but Lundqvist denied all five shots to force a shootout. In it, the difference was a brilliant move two deke move and smooth forehand finish by Montreal captain Saku Koivu. When Jaromir Jagr's backhand deke wouldn't go, it was over.

The impressive comeback was complete and the Habs had somehow managed to stay even with the Sens (also shootout winners over Philly) for the conference's most points (75).

So, how do the Rangers explain this one? They can't. They just got beat by a better and deeper team. It's ashame too cause some of their best offense came in the same game with Jagr netting four assists and Brandon Dubinsky recording a Gordie Howe hat trick. He got pounded by Komisarek but took his licks and got a couple in. The kid has guts. He might want to learn how to throw'em and pick his spots though.

Maybe if this team had a real fourth line like the one we saw from Montreal, they might've not wilted.

I don't believe any other Eastern team could've comeback from five to win that. It was about as impressive as can be.

I've said this is the most talented team the Canadiens have had since that 1993 team which was the last Canadian team to hoist Lord Stanley. I think they have a legit shot to do the same. They've got it. Skating. Skill. Finesse. Grit. Physicality. Goaltending. And mental toughness which was on display tonight. They sent a pretty loud message to the rest of the conference.

This was one of those crazy games which was a ton of fun to watch. Even if the Rangers only wound up with a point, I'm not complaining.

They have only themselves to blame. Now they wait until Friday for a rematch at Buffalo. We'll see how they respond.

Just an update on the conference race. With the Pens coming back from two down to win 3-2 over the Panthers and the Devils winning the day before 5-1 over the Canes, here's how close it is:

1.Senators 75 Pts 35 Wins 22 GR
2.Devils 73 34 Wins 22 GR
3.Canes 65 30 Wins 19 GR
4.Habs 75 33 Wins 21 GR
5.Pens 73 34 Wins 22 GR
6.Rangers 68 30 Wins 20 GR
7.Bruins 66 30 Wins 23 GR
8.Flyers 66 30 Wins 22 GR
9.Sabres 64 28 Wins 23 GR
10.Isles 63 28 Wins 22 GR
11.Caps 62 28 Wins 22 GR
12.Thrashers 62 29 Wins 21 GR
13.Panthers 60 27 Wins 20 GR
14.Leafs 59 25 Wins 21 GR
15.Bolts 56 25 Wins 23 GR

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