Koivu's day of recovery after an emotional weekend.

Saku Koivu didn't earn the game's First Star, but if not for a late third period rally by the Montreal Canadiens, the Anaheim Ducks center certainly would have been voted in by the fans.

Instead the former Habs captain earned the Second Star and skated out to a second standing ovation, making a lap around the Bell Centre ice to thank the fans he played in front of for 13 seasons. Bobby Ryan then made a rather brief appearance, as the games First Star, after scoring the shootout winner in the Ducks' 4-3 victory.

"This night was more than two points and a win," Koivu told Hockey Night in Canada following the game. "It was an emotional night, a great night and I'm glad it's over."

Koivu and his new team will stay an extra day in Montreal, and have their rookie dinner, before heading off to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets.

The Canadiens meanwhile, salvaged a point before preparing to visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.

  

As I said yesterday, I'm not big on the fans voting for the game's Three Stars, feeling favouritism could be a factor. Last night's case for Koivu certainly was just that.  In all seriousness, how does a guy with three penalties, of which two led to Canadiens goals, and an assist earn any star on a regular night?

But in a way, I am glad Koivu did get voted in, as the Canadiens organization did absolutely nothing to acknowledge his return.

I was expecting at least an announcement by PA announce Michel LaCroix during the game, but it didn't happen. Koivu was featured on the scoreboard, following the anthems and received a warm ovation from the Bell Centre crowd. An overwhelmed Koivu took a few skates around before entering the faceoff circle to face the man who now wears his No. 11, Scott Gomez.

 

Gomez  was seen saying a few words then won the draw form an emotional Koivu, claiming he used the old "Do you want to win the draw" trick to distract him.

Koivu wasn't the only one feeling the emotions, as many were reeling form a perfectly scripted night. It even brout out the emotions of this Montreal Gazette writer.

An excellent take on Koivu's return came from SI's Michael Farber during today's episode of TSN's "The Reporters."

"My thumb is up to Saku Koivu and his homecoming in Montreal on Saturday night. Yes, it was emotional seeing Koivu as a member of the Anaheim Ducks and the fans appreciated him.

"Maybe they didn't fully appreciate what he did on the ice in his 10 years as captain, the Canadiens never sniffed a Stanley Cup, but they know what he did off the ice. He beat cancer; he raised awareness when he was diagnosed in 2001. There was one PET scan in the entire province, now there are several because of the awareness Koivu brought to the situation, and the money he raised through his foundation. "

The game itself makes you wonder how the Canadiens will survive, in their current state, over the coming weeks? With Jeff Halpern ailing, and Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges lost for the season, the Montreal penalty kill is in serious trouble.

The pairing of Jaroslav Spacek and Roman Hamrlik were brutal on the Corey Perry power play goal, that Koivu assisted on, and two of the Ducks three goals came with the man advantage.

On the other side of the coin, the defense played solid in the third period and overtime, limiting the ducks to a toal of seven shots over the 25 minute span.

Carey Price played yet another solid game, but was out played by Jonas Hiller, who made 37 saves on the night. The Ducks netminder faced 23 shots in the third period alone, and much of his performance has to be attested to an Anaheim defence that kept the Habs to the perimeter for most of the night.

All three Canadiens goals did come in close, with the pair from Max Pacioretty coming from an almost identical spot to the left of Hiller. Mathieu Darche had the second goal for the Habs, on one of the few point shots that could be tipped in Hiller's direction. But for most of th night, Hiller had a clear view on the puck.

And for those asking, Maxim Lapierresaw 14:22 TOI (-1) with 4 hits and was 8-1 in the faceoff circle.

Again I am disturbed by the lack of officiating quality in the NHL. A pair of consecutive penalties, to both teams mind you, were clearly blown by the officials. Brandon McMillan's hight stick on Travis Moen seemed to not even come close to contact, and Benoit Pouliot's "hook" was merely a stick check.

Despite the loss, an excellent observation was made by Arpon Basu, who pointed out in his Daily Hab-It blog that the Canadiens are  7-1-3 since a Dec 30 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Basu goes on to parallel the team's overall success in that span to the arrival of James Wisniewski, who played 30:30 on Saturday.

Whether the Canadiens can maintain that trend, while forcing four of six rearguards into overtime, will remain to be seen.

They won't play another game after Tuesday until February 1, against the Washington Capitals, that begins a seven game run over 12 days. a solid run over that stretch, including a match-up with the Boston Bruins, and they easily find themselves in a solid playoff position. If the trend stops, especially with games against four bottom feeder teams, it could be a nail biting finish for the Habs playoffs hopes.

The Ducks' side of things from Anaheim Calling

 

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