At the beginning of last night’s game at the Bell Centre between the Montreal Canadiens and the Pittsburgh Penguins, all eyes were on the line of Alex Kovalev-Andrei Kostitsyn-Tomas Plekanec. By the end of the night, all eyes were on the line of Alex Kovalev-Andrei Kostitsyn-Tomas Plekanec.
After blowing up the lines again and again as a result of injuries and ongoing ineffectual play, Habs’ head coach Guy Carbonneau put the trio of Kovalev, A. Kostitsyn and Plekanec back together again. The result: an inspired effort on the part of all three, and his entire hockey team, en-route to a 4-2 victory over the slumping Penguins.
Some 48 hours after being benched for most of the third period in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins, Kovalev was not only back on the ice against the Pens, but back on the ice as a member of the line that dominated this team last season, but has yet to find its way this season. It was the right move by The Coach, who continues to make all the right moves.
Well, most of the right moves, at least, in my humble opinion.
With Robert Lang done for the season with a torn Achilles tendon (since surgically repaired), and Guillaume Latendresse joining him in sick bay for up to six weeks with a shoulder injury (nasty souvenirs from Sunday’s loss to the Bruins), the Canadiens, now more than ever, need these three guys to lead the way.
They didn’t disappoint against the Penguins. However, they didn’t lead the way.
That honor went to the newly-minted line of Max Pacioretty-Sergei Kostitsyn-Maxime Lapierre. The three buzzed all night long, and combined on a goal by Lapierre at 15:07 of the second period, that gave the Canadiens’ a 3-1 lead; effectively putting this one out of reach. Pacioretty made this one happen when he got the puck to Lapierre from out behind the net while being mugged along the boards. That goal was all about hard work, which was the hallmark of this Canadiens’ win last night.
Hard work by Sergei Kostitsyn, who gingerly stripped the puck from a wandering Marc-Andre Fleury and dished it back to Roman Hamerlik, who beat the Pens’ netminder at 4:31 of the opening period, after Luca Caputi had given the Penguins a 1-0 lead with a goal against Carey Price, 121 seconds earlier. The goal signified the start of a plus-4 night for Hamerlik. A long time coming, for the big veteran defenceman. And sorely needed.
Hard work by Christopher Higgins, who hustled after a loose puck deep in Montreal territory, and hustled up the ice, outracing two Pittsburgh defenders, to translate a Penguins’ turnover into Montreal’s 2nd goal of the game, unassisted.
And shorthanded, to boot.
And hard work by Andrei Kostitsyn, who banged away at the puck while getting his nose dirty in the crease, for the final goal of the game with less than five minutes to play. Kostitsyn was set up by Alex Kovalev, following a lovely stutter-step by Tomas Plekanec at the blue line to get the play rolling.
So, there you have it. An effective, hard-working Alex Kovalev. Wearing the “A” on his jersey after rolling his eyes and laughing off suggestions that he needs the “C” on his jersey to get going.
Clearly he doesn’t.
Alex Kovalev. Leading this team on this particular night with six shots on goal. Making things happen out there. Offering up some hope, along with his playing partners, that the Habs’ number one line last season, might yet emerge, as the number one line THIS season.
Meanwhile, there was some good news to come out of sick bay today. Georges Laraque, who has been out of action for almost six weeks with a bad back, appears ready to return to action Friday when the Canadiens are in Buffalo to take on the Sabres. The news, however, wasn’t so good for Alex Henry, who is on his way back to the Hamilton Bulldogs, as a result, after going 0-for-2 in bouts with Boston’s Shawn Thornton Sunday, and Pittsburgh’s Eric Godard. But getting an “A” for effort.