Let the record show that Andrei Kostitsyn was the first star in Montreal’s 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night at the Bell Centre. And for good reason. Kostitsyn, who has been struggling to find his game after having his bell rung by Kurt Sauer of the Coyotes in the game against Phoenix way back on Oct. 18, scored only his fourth of the season and picked up an assist on the winning goal by Andrei Markov.
The record will also show that Andrei, at the time of his goal, was on the ice with brother Sergei and Maxim Lapierre, not with his usual line mates, Alex Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec. That’s because head coach Guy Carbonneau again blew up the lines in an effort to squeeze more production out of his forwards.
Of note, The Coach moved Matt D’Agostini into the lineup after being called up from the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs in advance of the game in Washington 24 hours earlier. After watching that one from the Verizon Center press box, D’Agostini was inserted into the lineup against the Sabres, and the young man did not look out of place during 13:52 of ice time, playing with Saku Koivu and Chris Higgins. The spot for D’Agostini opened up when The Coach opted to put Mathieu Dandenault back on the blue line for the first time since the pre-season.
Not that Dandenault has done a terrible job as a fourth liner. But he’s a defenceman. And, as much credit as Carbonneau deserves for showing all kinds of patience with young Ryan O’Byrne, the decision to put Dandenault back on defence was long overdue. Nothing wrong with letting O’Byrne watch this game of hockey from the press box for a game or two. Or three.
However, on a night when Andrei Kostitsyn was the game’s first star, it’s the work by the game’s third star, Steve Begin, that really impressed me.
Begin is not the most talented player on the block, but he is among the hardest working. Game in and game out, he sacrifices his body for the good of his hockey team. Those shoulders of his are so banged up that I’m convinced they’re being held together by duct tape and chicken wire.
The trouble is, at the start of this season, Begin spent most of his time in the press box, and has seen action in only 14 of the team’s 23 games. But since returning to regular duty, the wily veteran has been his usual scrappy self, showing the occasional scoring touch, as well. The goal last night was his third of the season.
Mind you, we shouldn’t be totally surprised to see number 22 put the puck in the net on occasion. In his early days as a Montreal Canadien, after coming over from Calgary in 2003-2004, Begin exhibited a knack for scoring some very big goals. He scored another very big one last night, and has led a very impressive group of grinders this season that includes the rejuvenated Maxim Lapierre, and the always hard-working Tom Kostopoulos. And let’s not forget about Mathieu Dandenault.
No, it’s not the fourth liners who have been the problem with the Canandiens over the last dozen games or so. It’s the guys who are paid big money to put the puck in the net. Last night, it was Andrei Kostitsyn who came to play. We’re still waiting for a few others to take the hint.
Their next opportunity comes Tuesday night when the Atlanta Thrashers come to town.