Remember the Rolaids commercial of years ago, when the manufacturers of that fine antacid asked you: “How do YOU spell relief?”
Well, in the case of Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau, you spell relief K-O-V-A-L-E-V.
Specifically, when Alex Kovalev roofed one past Manny Legace to give the Canadiens a much-needed 3-2 victory over the Blues in St. Louis last night. It was the only goal of the shootout, and it came after the Habs forced the issue when Robert Lang pulled out his Louisville Slugger and batted one past Legace at 15:48 of the third period.
Oh yes, Lang was falling to his knees at the time when he scored his fifth of the season.
This win was big. Bigger than the 5-4 come-from-behind victory over the Islanders on Nov. 1, and bigger than the 4-0 win over the Ottawa Senators 10 days later.
Why, you ask?
Because the Canadiens were a desperate hockey team last night.
Because the Canadiens, despite a very respectable 9-4-and-2 record going into last night’s game, have been on a slippery slope since their last road trip through Minnesota, New York, Columbus and Toronto.
Because they had lost four of their last five going into St. Louis.
Because two of their last three losses, to the Leafs and Bruins, were humbling setbacks.
Because this was a fragile team that was threatening to spiral out of control, and still is. But, at the very least, this is now a team with two points under its belt as the Canadiens move on to Carolina for tomorrow night’s game against the Hurricaines.
Believe me, this one was no beauty contest. It was an ugly victory over an injury-depleted St. Louis team that was 1-7-2 in its last 10 games. And there were plenty of ugly aspects associated with it: notably an 0-for-10 performance by the Canadiens on the power play; a power play that is 0-for-20 going back to the Toronto game.
The goal by Kovalev won’t show up on number 27’s C.V. at the end of this season. However, it was a huge goal by the slumbering Russian, who found himself on a unit with Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay last night, as coach Guy Carbonneau mixed up the lines.
The new line combinations also resulted in a goal by Andrei Kostitsyn, only his second of the season, his first since he got his bell rung by Kurt Sauer in the game against Phoenix Oct. 18th. For Kovalev, Kostitsyn, and the rest of the Canadiens, if nothing else, the victory over St. Louis was something to build on.
The rest, is up to them.