On a night when fourth-liner Maxim Lapierre was their most effective forward on the ice, the Montreal Canadiens opened the home portion of their Centennial Season with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Boston Bruins.
It was an inspirational evening in which the Canadiens raised the curtain on the team’s Ring of Honor, a tribute to the members of the organization in the Hockey Hall of Fame (a number of whom were present during the pre-game ceremony, including Larry Robinson, Steve Shutt, Bob Gainey, Elmer Lach, Butch Bouchard, Guy Lapointe, and Guy Lafleur). And the present-day edition of the Montreal Canadiens started the game in inspirational fashion with a three-goal explosion within a three-minute stretch late in the first period, with Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu and, yes, Maxim Lapierre putting the puck in the net.
But a funny thing happened to the Canadiens’ on the way to their two points. With 40 minutes of regulation hockey still to go, the Bruins decided not to “mail it in.” They took the play away from the Habs and stormed back to tie it at 3-3 on a fluky goal off a puck that bounced off the endboards past a surprised Carey Price who had gone behind the net to trap it, to a waiting Marc Savard (Boston’s best forward on the night), who drilled it into an empty net with 48 seconds to play in regulation time.
After a scoreless overtime, Price stoned Phil Kessel, Patrice Bergeron and ex-Hab Michael Ryder (more on him in a moment), while Alex Tanguay scored the only goal the Canadiens would end up needing in the shootout.
As for Lapierre, he led the Habs with six shots on goal and was a dangerous presence during his entire 11:59 of ice time. And full marks must go to his linemate Mathieu Dandenault for setting up Lapierre’s goal with some good work behind tim Thomas in the Boston net.
Habs fans were up in arms after Coach Guy Carbonneau elected to sit the popular Steve Begin, and not Dandenault, to make room in the lineup for big Georges Laraque, who was making his debut in a Canadiens’ uniform. The reality is, Dandenault has played well to open the season. The same way he played well at the start of last season. Dandenault is playing like someone who’se job depends on it.
This is not the first time Steve Begin will be a healthy scratch this season. Mathieu Dandenault will join him as a healthy scratch at some point this season, as well. Bet on it. Georges Laraque will end up being a healthy scratch this season, too.
It’s called depth.
Tom Kostoupolos will end up being a healthy scratch this season, as well. Despite his effective role as a third-line mucker playing with Robert Lang and Sergei Kostitsyn, the injured Chris Higgins is just days away from returning to action. When he does, Kostoupolos will be dropped to the fourth line. Count on it. And someone will have to sit.
It’s called depth.
As for Georges Laraque, it took the newcomer exactly 2:28 to make a name for himself in front of adoring Bell Centre fans, dropping his gloves in the early going to tangle with Shawn Thornton. Thornton scored a quick take-down, but Laraque did a fairly effective job of eventually pinning his opponent along the boards before the officials stepped in.
And as for the Bruins’ newcomer Michael Ryder, he joined Marc Savard with five shots on goal to lead all Bruins’ forwards in that department. He played with a poise and confidence not often seen during his final season as a member of the Habs. However, when all was said and done on this particular evening, he failed to put the puck in the net: a refrain all too familiar to the Canadiens and their fans last season.