Things got interesting in the second period between the Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs last night. It was the third meeting of the year between the two teams. The first was on October 11th when the Habs embarrassed the Leafs on home ice in a 6-1 spanking.
The Leafs got a measure of revenge just under a month later by handing the Habs a 6-3 defeat at the Air Canada Centre on November 8th. Mikhail Grabovski was the story that night with a goal, an assist and a butt-ending of Carey Price that went uncalled.
Grabovski is remembered by Habs fans largely as a guy who couldn't crack the lineup or find any consistency during his time with the Canadiens and had difficulty staying on his feet for more than five seconds at a time during a shift. He also left the team during a crucial Western road trip because he was unhappy about his ice time. The 24 year-old was happy to be dealt to the Leafs in the offseason and his seething hatred of the CH and Sergei Kostitsyn in particular boiled over last night. Grabovski really covered his bases, he also managed to take a shot at the French following the game.
"I think he is not Belarussian now, he is French because I never fight with Belarussian guys," Grabovski said. "I don't know why he wants to fight with me. If he wants to fight, we'll go in the street and every minute of every day I'll wait for him and we'll fight."
Grabovski went also made it clear that he only has it out for the younger Kostitsyn.
"He's not smart, because the older Kostitsyn, Andrei, he never fights with me and he never will fight because he plays hockey, he plays the game, I think it's stupid."
The fallout of Grabovski's temper tantrum late in last night's blowout is an automatic three game suspension from the NHL for "abuse of an official". Grabovski's return to the Bell Centre was also highlighted by a one-fingered salute he delivered to the Bell Centre faithful, who booed him mercilessly every time he touched the puck, upon his ejection from the game late in the third period.
It's a shame things didn't work out in Montreal for Grabovski because he's a gifted player who can make a difference when given a chance. His play has been a bright spot for a dismal Leafs team that dropped to 16-19-6 with last night's loss. That's a bad record but still has them 10 points behind the Islanders in the Tavares-Hedman sweepstakes, to the chagrin of many Leafs fans.
Round four of the intriguing Habs-Leafs season series won't happen until February 7th but don't expect any of the bad blood to diminish in the meantime. The bad news for the Leafs is that the Habs decimated them without the services of six regulars, including their starting goaltender, captain and prized offseason acquisition.
Some journalists pointed out the Leafs proved a point in the only aspect of the game in which they excelled, the fights. Jamal Mayers pounded Tom Kostopoulos and the newest Leaf, Brad May, beat the crap out of Francis Bouillon two seconds later.
Let's not lose sight of the fact that Mayers has 25 pounds and three inches on Tom the Bomb or that Bouillon gives May five inches and 15 pounds. Kostopoulos had to answer for his hit on Mike Van Ryn last time the teams met. Someone had to do something because referee Tim Peel was unable to get the job done all night long in one of the most embarrassing displays of officiating in recent memory.
Andrei Kostitsyn was a target all night for his hit on Luke Schenn, who appears to be the real deal, earlier this year.
Kostitsyn had three points and set up Alex Kovalev for a beautiful goal after avoiding a huge hit at his own blueline, drawing a hooking penalty and finally feeding Kovalev for a beauty on the delayed call. AK46 is on fire right now with three goals and six points in his last three games.
Other highlights included three first period assists for the reborn Patrice Brisebois, who has been an unsung hero for this team all year long and who saluted Habs fans with a brief tour of the rink following his being named the games first star and moving into fifth all-time on the Habs defensive scoring list. He's come a long way in his career and Guy Carbonneau is thrilled with what his old teammate has brought to the table this year.
“He’s done a lot for us not only this year but last year, too,” said Carbonneau following last night's game. “We signed him as a potential seventh defenseman or as a precautionary measure. That was the plan, but things can change pretty quickly in this business. Patrice knows his limits and he’s playing well.”
Another hated former Hab comes to the Bell tomorrow night in the form of Jose Theodore but the former Vezina trophy winning netminder will be hard pressed to follow up the Grabovski show.