Monday, April 12, 2004

Habs get back into series

Finally we see some offence from Alexei Kovalev and not a moment too soon. Kovalev, who was acquired from the New York Rangers at the trading deadline, hadn’t done very much to endear himself to the critical Montreal fans and media. But after Game three in Montreal, all is probably forgiven, Kovalev scoring two of Montreal’s three goals on Sunday as the Habs defeated the Bruins 3-2, getting their first win in this best of seven quarterfinal.

Kovalev who was moved up to the top line with Saku Koivu and Richard Zednik in game two, finally hit his stride showing a strong sense of confidence from the start of the game. The Habs looked to be in complete control of the game until the early part of the third period, when Jose Theodore let in a soft goal by Brian Rolston, bringing the Bruins to within one goal of the Canadiens. It marked the third soft goal given up by the usually reliable Theodore in this series.

Montreal has turned around a horrid game one into a solid effort in game three. The turn around beginning in the second game and had they found a few breaks in that game it would be 2-1 Montreal in this series right now. But it isn’t, so the Habs will have to take their momentum into game four on Tuesday and try to tie the series at 2 each.

The night featured some disturbing incidents. Starting with the beginning of the night, when the crowd booed the American national anthem, shades of last march when the Bruins visited at the time of the start of the war in Iraq. At that time it took the visual urgings of Jean Beliveau on the big screen before each following game, to remind the Hab fans of the proper etiquette of anthem singing. It will be interesting to see if Montreal’s lack of respect is reprised by the Bruin faithful in game five. Prepare for a brief period of Canada bashing from the US over this incident.

Later in the game the fans cheered loudly when Bruin P. J. Axelsson lay on the ice injured, one guesses that suddenly boorishness is in fashion in Montreal in the spring. As the game wound down we were treated to the bizarre spectacle of Mike Ribeiro writhing on the ice, after a collision with Mike Knuble of the Bruins. Ribeiro’s apparent pain such, that play was whistled dead as the trainers jumped on the ice to attend to him. As soon as play stopped Ribeiro hopped to his feet and began taunting the Bruin bench, his life threatening injury apparently miraculously healed. No penalty was assessed on the play for diving or unsportsmanlike conduct, but the Bruins took notes as did the referees. Expect Riberio not to be getting any benefits of a doubt from either quarter for the rest of the series.

For Boston however, the real issue is to try and get back on track. They’ve let Montreal get back into the series, if they hope to advance in the playoff round, they had best come out on Tuesday on all cylinders. Letting Montreal pull even with them in the series will not be in their best interests. If Montreal gets a sniff of the next round, they could make things very difficult for the Bruins in this one.

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