Mike Komisarek has a vivid memory.
He can recall, in a game on Dec. 1, 2007, at the Bell Centre, how the Canadiens blew a pair of three-goal leads en-route to a 5-4 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators. It was something that was on his mind as the Canadiens took a 2-1 lead into the third period of last night’s game against these same Predators, in this same building.
And sure enough, after building a 3-1 lead on a goal by Andrei Markov at 1:05 of the third period, the Predators pulled within one at 3-2 on a goal by Vernon Fiddler some five minutes later, throwing a major-league scare into a Habs’ team that finally prevailed, 3-2.
“They always seem to have forwards flying out of the zone, guys driving to the net with speed,” said Komisarek when this one was over.
“That game was still fresh in my mind. That was a perfect example of them not giving up. We talked about it in the second, that they wouldn’t let up.”
And they didn’t.
Only some outstanding work by Jaroslav Halak enabled the Canadiens to earn two points against a hurting Nashville team that is struggling to play .500 hockey.
Guillaume Latendresse opened the scoring for the Habs with his 6th in his last 14 games, at 19:26 of the first period; a snap shot that eluded Pekka Rinne in the Nashville goal.
JP Dumont tied it 6:35 into the second before the red-hot Andrei Kostitsyn scored his his 9th in10 games: another shot from the faceoff circle just two minutes after the goal by Dumont. The goal by Kostitsyn came on only Montreal’s second shot on goal in that period. Those would be the only two shots they would get on Rinne in the middle frame, on a night when the Canadiens were held to 20 S.O.G., compared to 25 for the Preds.
The Habs couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn all night long, and nowhere were those frustrations more evident than in the final 90 seconds of the contest. With Rinne on the bench for an extra attacker, and the Canadiens facing a yawning cage, Alex Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec, Robert Lang and Andrei Markov all failed to find the net, despite glorious opportunities.
But in the end, Markov, Andrei K. and Latendresse did, when it counted.
The goal by Markov, his 7th of the season, gives him 33 points as he continues to challenge for the point-scoring lead on this team.
The goal by Latendresse was his 8th of the season. And his steady production of late leaves Habs fans with hope that the enigmatic forward, who drifted badly for a good two-month stretch after starting the season in such promising fashion, might actually hit the 20-goal mark after back-to-back 16-goal seasons.
Then there’s the rejuventated Andrei Kostitsyn. With 15 goals on the season, there’s no reason to believe that A.K. 46 can’t hit the 30-goal mark when all is said and done; after connecting on 26 last season.
And then there’s the steady veteran Robert Lang, who assisted on the goals by Kostitsyn and Markov. General Manager Bob Gainey had said that it remains to be seen if Lang can keep up the rather prolific point-scoring pace he set in the first half of the season, adding that other players need to step up and contribute the way Lang has. But in the meantime, Lang has clearly found a home on a line with the Kostitsyn brothers on team that, despite a long list of injured players, continues to pile up the points; two of them coming the ugly way last night.