The Montreal Canadiens regained the 8th and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference last night with a 4-3 Overtime victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
As a Canadiens fan nothing feels better than extending the Maple Leafs losing streak to 8 games (the longest in over a decade) while overtaking them and re-entering the playoff picture. Doing it in Toronto is even better.
The Canadiens decided to show up and compete last night. Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev were noticeable in particular. Even before they put any points up you could tell they came to play. They were skating hard and grinding it out which we haven’t seen from either two in quite some time. Hopefully that streak is over and the highest paid players will start performing like they should be.
Jose Theodore took a step in the right direction with a decent performance. He was handcuffed on the tying goal late in the 3rd after Chad Kilger did not get called on what should have been a penalty and Ken Klee was able to surprise him with a slap shot. It looked like the Habs were going to give up another game but the Canadiens got the break they needed in OT and for once had a powerplay instead of being shorthanded in OT. A minute later and Koivu jammed in the game winner. You could tell it was a huge relief and a big moment as Koivu celebrated wildly before Kovalev put him in a bear hug. Although the Canadiens only managed 4 out of a possible 12 points it was a great way to finish the road trip from hell.
The Canadiens now sit in 8th but are far from safe. The Leafs losing streak will end soon enough and the Thrashers are still playing strong hockey. The Canadiens will have another tough game against Carolina before they get a chance to put the Bruins farther out of the race with back to back games this week.
If the Canadiens can make it to the Olympic break in 8th or above then they’ll be in good shape. The chance to rest physically and mentally will be definitely helpful down the stretch.