Guy Carbonneau put the emphasis on fundamentals like defence and transition and forced his players to watch hours of tape after they didn't show up in Toronto on Saturday night. The result was what he described as ""the best 60 minutes we've played this year and probably the last two years." High praise for a group that gave him "the most embarrasing effort" he had seen in his career on Saturday night.
Last night, CH stood for Chris Higgins. His lightning-quick acceleration was on display throughout the game. He had more confidence than usual shooting the puck and some slick passing from his teammates earned him his first career NHL hat-trick and first since his Ivy League days at Yale. Carbo singled Higgins out for well-deserved praise after the game and Higgins himself dedicated his effort to his mom. Awwww.
Carey Price was very solid and more importantly, his defence was mean and spirited defending their end. Roman Hamrlik's return was a huge boost to the group and Ryan O'Byrne had his best game of the year with an assist and a +2 rating.
24 hours ago, it was doom and gloom for the Habs. Now as quickly as fall becomes winter, fans are back on the bandwagon and optimism is again the theme for radio talk shows throughout the city. The Canadiens served their fans and critics with a reminder of what this team is capable of when they work together and get on the same page.
Explosive in transition. Deadly on the PK. Tough.
Georges Laraque kept his gloves on all night but Chris Neil didn't take his usual liberties with the Habs late in the game when it was no longer in doubt, definitely a testament to what BGL brings to the table for opponents mentally.
Guillaume Latendresse scored his first goal in eleven games on a beautiful set play off an offensive zone faceoff won by Robert Lang. GLT roofed it about 1.7 seconds after the puck was dropped with the kind of release that elevates the unrealistic hopes many have for this kid.
One of those nights where it all comes together in a game with a late season level of intensity. The Sens did not go easily but to have a game that spirited this early in the season bodes well for this rivalry going forward. These two teams flat out don't like each other and it's becoming more and more obvious each time they meet.
Jason Spezza demonstrated this admirably by going after Saku Koivu away from the play as both were skating to the bench and Jarkko Ruutu took it a few steps further by attempting to decapitate Maxim Lapierre later in the game. Ruutu then did what he does, clutching his way through a terrible fight with Habs little big man Francis Bouillon that ended no contest.
Would've been nice to see Laraque get his hands on Ruutu, his former teammate.
The Canadiens 9-2-2 mark and 20 points in 13 games is good for first in the Northeast division and second only to the New York Rangers 24 points in 18 games, five more than the Habs. They have one point and a game in hand on the Sabres.
It gets no easier for the Habs who travel to Boston tomorrow and are back home to face Mike Richards and the Flyers on Saturday night.