For a few minutes tonight it looked like Montreal was going to pull the same stunt they did against Atlanta the other night, and allow a game they had well in hand to suddenly slip away. The Habs looked unstoppable early on, and by part way through the second period they’d built what looked to be an insurmountable lead. But with two late second period goals from Markus Naslund and Nigel Dawes it looked like the Rangers had all the momentum, and would put the Canadiens under siege in the third period.
Yes, the Canadiens could have melted down. We’ve seen it a few times already this season, most recently against Atlanta. But it was original six night at The Bell Centre tonight and with several legendary former Montreal Canadiens in attendance the present day Habs managed to tighten up and stop the bleeding.
Instead of hunkering down and trying to protect the lead – a strategy that rarely works these days because of the inability of the defensive players to hook and hold – the Canadiens took it to their opponents in the third period, and goals by Robert Lang and surprise first star Matt D’Agostini salted the game away for the Habs.
Montreal, particularly in the first period, looked like the dominant team that finished first in the Eastern Conference last season. They had several shifts where they absolutely owned the puck in the Rangers zone, playing a puck possession game that looked eerily like the style employed by the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.
With the win the Habs kept pace with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who easily dispatched the Carolina Hurricanes on the strength of a four point performance by Sidney Crosby. With the loss the Rangers fell to second in the Eastern Conference, as the high flying Boston Bruins won again yet tonight to overtake the Blueshirts.
The Rangers’ brutal schedule to start the season has left them in a precarious position. Sure, they are still 2nd in the conference, but they’ve played 4 or 5 more games than everyone else, and they look like a tired team right now. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them slide down to 6th or 7th once the other teams in the conference make up the games in hand.
That’s about it for the Hockey Hermit tonight. I’ll be back tomorrow with the latest hockey news. Don’t forget to vote in the poll on the right hand sidebar, and be sure to check out my comparison of Alexander Ovechkin vs Pavel Bure. Don’t forget to check out the Pavel Bure tribute video. Some really amazing goals in there.