Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Winning ugly

In Philadelphia Monday night, the Montreal Canadiens found a way to win a game they had no business winning by putting together a tremendous final 20 minutes to steal a victory.

Wednesday night, amid the pageantry of the 100th home opener in team history, the Canadiens roared out with a dominant first 20 minutes, then went to sleep over the final 40 against a team they have owned for parts of three seasons.

But the Canadiens still won, and that’s what’s important because good teams win these types of games, the ones they’re not supposed to win.

Just don’t tell that to coach Guy Carbonneau.

“One thing we talked about before the game was our starts,” he said. “I felt in our first three games our starts were so-so, we were watching the other team to see how they wanted to play and then we adjusted. Tonight was the start we wanted. We went right after them, we skated well, passed the puck well, a good forecheck and a lot of offensive time in their zone. But we slowed down, and the day we’ll be a good team is when those things don’t happen.”

The Canadiens did a lot of things wrong after grabbing a 3-0 lead within a 3:19 span late in the first period. But even though the Bruins tied it up, it shouldn’t be forgotten that it came off a freaky bounce off the end boards and that was the only way Carey Price was going to give up that goal.

Basically, the game was a good lesson for the Canadiens, and Alex Kovalev believes it’s better that lesson be given in October than in April.

“It’s not easy when you have a three-goal lead and you sit on it,” Kovalev said. “We did it last year and it cost us, and it cost us again tonight. We’re going to have to learn from it while it’s still early in the season.”

Despite the concerns the coaching staff will mull over tonight and tomorrow, blowing the lead actually allowed the Habs to put a special topper on what was yet another memorable landmark moment at the Bell Centre.

The Ring of Honour ceremony was vintage Habs, and finding guys like Larry Robinson and Guy Lapointe – who both work for other NHL teams – standing next to their spot on that ring drove the point home about what makes this franchise so special.

“That’s what makes the Montreal Canadiens the Montreal Canadiens,” Carbonneau said.

For newcomer Georges Laraque, the night was extra special because it was his first chance to wear the jersey he grew up idolizing, and he didn’t take long at all to get his first fight in.

When he jumped over the boards early in the first for his initial spin on Bell Centre ice wearing the famed Tricolore, he didn’t even have time to take a stride before he was dancing with Shawn Thornton.

But something Thornton said afterwards got me thinking that maybe Laraque would be better served waiting a little bit before dropping the gloves.

“I have a lot of respect for him, so I wanted to get it out of the way,” Thornton said. “I would have been thinking about it all night if I didn’t get it out of the way.”

Now, Thornton is no wuss, he’s a very tough customer who plays the game hard. If Laraque can get into a guy’s head to that point, especially a guy like that, maybe the role of the enforcer in the NHL is alive and well after all.

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