This was a hockey game that was decided in 6:39 seconds of hockey. And it was decided by Maxim Lapierre’s hustle, desire and second-effort, which led to a three-goal performance by number 40.
Let’s take you back to the second period of last night’s game at Bank Atlantic Centre: the Habs vs. the Panthers. With the score tied at two, the Canadiens found themselves struggling to keep up to a Florida team that had limited the Canadiens to two shots on goal through the opening 15 minutes or so of the middle frame. At 16:01, of that period, Lapierre moved in on Craig Anderson and attempted to stuff one between the Florida netminder and the goal post, on his forehand. After finding no room to do so, Lapierre swung behind the Panthers’ goaltender, and tried the same play,on the other side, this time on his backhand, and was successful: his second effort resulting in Lapierre’s fifth of the season, and first of the night.
In the opening minutes of the third period, Lapierre took a drop pass from Guillaume Latendresse and beat Anderson with a snap shot to make it 4-2 Montreal. Lapierre’s second of the night, and sixth of the season.
4-2 Montreal. Total elapsed playing time between goals: 6:39 seconds.
Lapierre wasn’t done yet.
With the Canadiens shorthanded in the dieing seconds of this one, and the Florida net wide open in favour of an extra attacker, Lapierre stripped the puck from Bryan McCabe deep in Florida territory and scored his third of the night with 6.2 seconds showing on the clock, completing the natural hat trick for Lapierre, and the first three-goal performance of his N.H.L. career.
This one was all about second effort by the Canadiens, the goal by Tomas Plekanec early in the second period, another good example of that. Plekanec refused to give up on a loose puck deep in Florida territory with the Canadiens playing shorthanded, beating Anderson for his 7th of the season, and first in 11 long games.
Alex Kovalev had the other for the Canadiens, on a 5-on-3 power play; Kovalev’s 9th of the season.
This one was also about goaltender Carey Price shaking off a skittish start, beaten by a shot from the faceoff circle by Michael Frolik to open the scoring 5:18 into this one, and coming up big when he had to. You look for your goaltender to give you a chance to win a hockey game. Carey Price did exactly that, and certainly couldn’t be faulted on Florida’s second goal, which tied the game at 6:49 of the second period, after Sergei Kostitsyn and Ben Maxwell played patty-cake with the puck in front of Price, leaving David Booth to beat the Montreal netminder.
This was also a game that was decided by Steve Begin and Tom Kostopoulos, who both assisted on Lapierre’s first of the night. Fourth liners? Sure, on paper at least. But on the ice, these two players have lifted the Canadiens to victory on more than one occasion this season. Kostopoulos? He won’t win you any scoring titles, but you can bet the Canadiens will take his plus three performance in almost 14 minutes of well-deserved ice time.
Maxime Lapierre? A plus three as well, when all was said and done. And although he won’t win you any scoring titles, either, he captured the scoring title in last night’s game between the Canadiens and the Panthers.
You can’t ask much more from a guy, than that.