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Habs Beat Bruins In Emotional Battle

In the grand scheme of things it's just a game...

The Bell Centre was filled with heavy hearts tonight as the Canadiens and Bruins played an emotional game Tuesday evening.

I watched the RDS telecast. The pre-game lead up featured a short tribute to Laura Gainey, with pictures of her enjoying life aboard the Picton Castle. Guy Carbonneau briefly discussed his decision not to tell players about Gainey's tragedy before last Saturday's game with the Sabres. Prior to the National anthems, house announcer Andre Lacroix asked for a moment of silence in honour of Ms. Gainey, and you could literally hear the hum of the electronic jumbotron - it was that quiet.

The Bell Centre has been the sight of some pretty emotional evenings in it's ten year existance. While it has yet to see a Stanley Cup hoisted by its home team, it has been the scene many heart ripping pre-game ceremonies.

There was Saku Koivu's inspiring return from life threatening stomach cancer. The celebration turned obituary for Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, as he passed away the morning of his jersey number retirement. The passing of the enshrined Maurice "Rocket" Richard. Jersey retirements a decade overdue.

Laura Gainey's untimely passing, ironically fit in uneasily, to the tear shedding that came before.

Oddly, the Bruins received their share of bad news this week. 19 year old rookie Phil Kessel was diagnosed with testicular cancer and was successfully operated on today. Just as it is difficult to comprehend a 25 year old woman in the prime of her life being swept off the stern of an ocean bound sailboat, it is just as easily unimaginable that a youth of Kessel's age be struck with cancer. I wish him a Lance Armstrong-like recovery.

It strikes me as ironic in that how we play and enjoy games and sports to live, and distract us from life itself all at once, yet still events collide to remind us what fragile beings we are. All that I can take from this most brutal of ironies is that in bonding, we become less fragile.

And enjoy game we did tonight...

With my cynicism firmly intact, I watched the game almost knowing the Canadiens would fall short under the weight of such emotions and expectations.

David Aebischer got the unlikely call in nets - I was all ready to write this one off.

Sheldon Souray was taking precautions with a "day to day" wrist condition, and was out. Fourth line grinder Steve Begin, the team leader in hits, despite badly bruised ribs and an all-out willingness to give more, was sat out by coach Carbonneau. The improvisation act that has been the vowelly challenged Janne Ninimaa was in, while AHL callup, Maxim Lapierre was set to center the fourth line.

It has all the makings of an unmaking.

Underneath my perceived frailty of tonights lineup, longed a win-it-for-Bob-Gainey attitude.

That attitude showed its teeth immediatly following an initial Bruins surge. On a powerplay in which the Habs made the Bruins look almost incompetant, the sleek Alex Kovalev gently flicked a six-inches-off-the-ice-pass to an eager Andrei Markov, who couldn't miss the gapping net.

The Bruins tied the game.

Sergei Samsonov, Gainey's most controversial off-season signing put the Habs ahead on a display of individual virtuosity that tends to nag at a team players pride - but damnit if it wasn't obliquely pretty.

Again, the Bruins knotted it on an embarrasing Kovalev giveaway, just a dozen feet from a rarely alert Aebischer.

Tomas Plekanec, becoming a reincarnation of Zdeno Chara's Jason Pominville nightmare, pickpocketed the lighthouse tower-like defender from behind the net, and fed a crease cruising Samsonov in the slot, from his knees, for the go ahead goal.

Minutes later, Guillaume Latendresse exited from the corner to find the puck on his blade. With a defender draped over him, he spinned and fired a low wrister that beat Bruins goalie Toivannen.

With the score 4-3, the Bruins yanked their netminder and went on the attack. They made it a drama it shouldn't have been, by beating the usually confused Aebischer, who inexplicably made himself smaller on a point drive.

The Habs neutralized a frothing Bruins squad in the final seconds to preserve the win.

While the Canadiens mainly dominated the games better scoring chances, the win in the record books fails to detail the nights emotioms.

That's one for Bob.