Tuesday, April 27, 2004


Saku Koivu and his teammates are saying all the right things, the series isn’t over yet, this team can come back, we’ll give it everything we’ve got. But the simple truth is the Habs are in a big hole, after a heartbreaking 4-3 overtime loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.

Now they have to believe that they’re coming back, as they prepare for game four on Thursday. But the way that game three got away from the Habs, will haunt them for the next game and most likely into the off season. Vincent Lecavalier tied the game with only 17 seconds to go in regulation time, setting the stage for an exciting overtime period. Brad Richards brought a quick end to the night with the winning goal at 1:05 of overtime. Lecavalier’s goal effectively silenced the sell out crowd of over 21,000 which had been singing the Na Na Na Goodbye song loudly with 18 seconds to go in the third. It was different tune on the way out of the Bell centre at the end of the game, something more akin to the blues, and no one was bopping.

Montreal outplayed the Lightning for the majority of the game, but the Bolts kept close enough to make the charge near the end and in OT. The Canadiens out shot the Bolts 31-28 and had numerous chances to build on their lead and put the game away. But, once again Nikolai Khabibulan was there to frustrate the Montreal attack; Khabibulan stepped up and kept his team in the game, setting up the frantic finish and thrilling overtime victory.

Montreal has the unenviable position of having to launch a four game comeback, something that has only been twice before in playoff history. While you never want to say something is impossible, the way the Lightning is playing that will be a huge task for the Habs. The Bolts know they are in the driver’s seat now, the large number of Quebecers in their line up would like nothing better than to bid farewell to the family and friends on Thursday night, with a four to nothing sweep of the hometown Habs.

If nothing else at least Montrealers and Quebecers alike have found a team to cheer for as the playoffs continue. If the Canadiens can’t make the journey, this Lightning team might make for a nice surrogate squad for all of Quebec. Break out the sun tan lotion and Lightning sun hats Hab fans, it looks like your next playoff round will start in Tampa Bay, travel agents are standing by for your calls.

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