Sunday, March 14, 2004

Wandering Goalies and missed opportunities

Finally we could concentrate on some hockey, the Bertuzzi incident almost reaching it’s finishing point as far as a media fascination. Saturday night’s Hockey Night in Canada double bill, provided some exciting and fast paced action, almost playoff like in it’s intensity.

Starting with the Toronto Montreal game we enjoyed two ancient rivals, take to the ice at the Bell Centre and put on a great display for the fans on hand and the television audience. Ed Belfour brought re-assurance to his Maple Leaf fans by starting in the net for Toronto tonight, but right off the bat gave them cause to worry. Mike Ribeiro electrifying the crowd by dashing across the front of the net stretching both defensemen and Belfour out flat before firing the puck into the net to open the scoring.

The two teams battled back and forth in the fast and physical game, Montreal taking the lead for good at 9:33 of the third, when Richard Zednik scored for the Habs. While the atmosphere was loud and enthusiastic in the arena, Leaf coach Pat Quinn was not enthused about his team’s performance tonight. Worrying about the inability of the first unit to get any chances or make an impression. Belfour played well for the most part, Montreal goaltender Jose Theodore just a little bit better at the other end. The 4-3 win gives the Habs a bit more breathing space in the East, the loss coupled with a Senator win gives leaves the Leafs looking up the standings at Ottawa in fourth place.

The Senators putting together an effective road game in Vancouver to gain a game in hand on the Leafs and move closer to the Bruins for first overall in the North East conference. Another fast paced game, this one featured some unusual goals in the Sens 2-1 victory at GM place. Ottawa outplayed the Canucks badly in the first period, controlling the play and keeping the Canucks off the shots list until the fifteen minute mark. An early goal by Zdeno Chara was waved off after the referees ruled incidental contact in the Canuck crease. Martin Rucinsky missed a golden opportunity as well as his shot in the first went wide of the empty side of the Sens net. The first Senators goal by Peter Bondra was scored when Canuck goaltender Johan Hedberg went wandering behind the net to play the puck, mishandled it ended up on Bondra’s stick and then in. The lead didn’t last long as farmhand Pat Kavanagh scored a goal for Vancouver, one minute and fourty eight seconds later, it was Kavanagh’s second goal in the NHL since being called up.

The Canucks had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the third when Ottawa was assessed a four minute penalty, but the Canucks could not score and in fact were for the most part kept out of the Ottawa end for the duration of the penalty. Daniel Alfredsson then took the play into the Vancouver end with nine minutes to go and scored an unusual goal as the puck bounced off of two Canuck defenders before making it’s way behind Hedberg.

The Sens settled things down and survived a few extra Canuck rushes to secure the 2-1 victory, they round out their road trip west with a game Sunday night in Edmonton. The Canucks don’t face another Eastern team for the rest of the season, they’ll have to improve quite a bit if they hope to meet one in the post season.

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