Did you expect anything less from Alex Kovalev?

With the spotlight on number 27,  for all the wrong reasons, Kovalev returned to action yesterday, scored a goal and added two assists, to help power the Canadiens to a 5-3 win over a stubborn Ottawa Senators hockey club.

The chant “Kovy, Kovy, Kovy” rang through the Bell Centre rafters, the moment that Kovalev was introduced to the crowd by way of pre-game player introductions on the jumbo screen.  And it didn’t take Kovalev long to pay the fans back for their ongoing support, as he set up Tomas Plekanec for the game’s first goal just 2:23 into the opening period; the first of three power play goals for the Habs.

One hundred and ninety-five seconds  later, Kovalev made it 2-0 when he picked up a Chris Phillips turnover and beat Brian Elliott stick-side.

Kovalev also assisted on a goal by Patrice Brisebois; a goal that gave the Canadiens a commanding 4-0 lead.

They needed it.

The Sens stormed back in the second period with a pair of goals before Mathieu Dandenaultscored a huge goal with 18.1 seconds remaining in the second to put Montreal ahead 5-2.  Despite giving up the late second-period goal (by that time, Alex Auld was on in relief of Elliott), the Sens continued to press, as the Canadiens ran into some serious penalty trouble.   However, Jaroslav Halakwas able to keep the Sens at bay, kicking out 44 shots; with the Canadiens outshot 22-4 in the third period.

Finally, a win by this Canadienshockey team.  One they could be proud of.  They’ll have an opportunity to make it two straight wins, for the first time in well over a month, when they play host to Mats Sundin and the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night.

And won’t THAT be fun.

Oh yes. Alex Kovalev.  The man loves the spotlight, doesn’t he?  Remember the all-star game?  He didn’t disappoint that night.  And he didn’t disappoint last night, coming away as the game’s first star.  As impressive as his offensive contributions were, what really raised my eyebrows was the way he lunged for a puck in the first period, timed the move perfectly, to clear the zone at a time when the Canadiens were killing a penalty.

While, on most nights, it’s all about artistic merit when it comes to Kovalev, that particular move was all about effort.  And for the better part of his 19:44 of ice time, it was all about effort for the rejuvenated Kovalev, who joked with his team mates that his return to action after an unscheduled two-day vacation felt like he had just been traded to this team.

A rather interesting choice of words, what with the Mar. 4 N.H.L. trade deadline just 10 days away.

Will Kovalev still be a Hab when he wakes up on Thurs., Mar. 5th?  More of what we saw of Alex Kovalev last night,  in the days and weeks to come, will certainly make it more difficult for G.M. Bob Gainey to consider trading his enigmatic all-star.  I’ve always maintained, and I still maintain, that Kovalev isn’t going anywhere. Not now, at least.  But the last time I checked, my business card did not include the title: General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens.

The REAL question that begs to be asked is:  WHICH Alex Kovalev will show up to the rink Tuesday night against the Canucks. And Thursday when the Habs are in Philadelphia.  And the following night, when the Sharks are in town.

Etc. Etc.

The Alex Kovalev who played like an all star last night?  Or the Alex Kovalev who played himself off this team just a few short days ago.

The only person who can answer that question is number 27 himself.

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