Rested Price, Kostitsyn, Habs Beat Roasted Penguins

One of the pre - game story underlines unfolding prior to the Canadiens / Penguins tilt, was what effect would a six day layoff have on the Habs against a Pittsburgh team who barely had a Christmas break?

The answer to the question did not produce a dramatic game or result, but it was two of the more well rested Canadiens players who made the difference.

Goalie Carey Price, who had just rejoined the team for it's previous game, after being out for six with an injury, and Andrei Kostitsyn, sidelined for two, made all the difference. Against a Penguins club that were perhaps more out of sync than pooped, Price was perfect in third period flurry, and Kostitsyn's first career hat trick helped seal the deal.

The win was an important one for the Canadiens, in an after Christmas perspective. While much can occur standings wise in the the final 48 games of the season, it looks as though it will take a monumental win streak by the Canadiens, or catastrophic breakdown in Beantown for the Habs to close the 12 point gap between themselves and the Bruins. With division leaders awarded the first three post season ranks, the currently ranked fifth place Canadiens will be looking to finish fourth, and that means taking points at every turn against rivals such as the Penguins, Rangers, Flyers, and Devils.

Winning the three remaining games with Boston only closes half the gap.


Playing the Penguins usually means shutting down Crosby and Malkin, and the Canadiens did enough of it to warrant the two points. With the last line change on the road, the Habs did enviable work in limiting the two Penguins pivots chances. While both owned the puck for great amounts of time in this game, Montreal players assigned to the task managed to limit their contributions.

The Habs top trio of Plekanec, Kovalev and Kostitsyn not only provided all the offence needed, they countered their defensive matchups more than adequately. The line of Maxim Lapierre, Steve Begin, and Sergei Kostitsyn were faultless in neutralizing their opposites, and focused on using simple plays to their advantage.

Here are some intersting stats for the game:

Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 17 to 5 in the third period.

Mike Komisarek played an even 26 minutes, and partner Markov was on the ice for 26:31.

Andrei Kostitsyn led the Habs with six shots on goal.

Komisarek blocked five shots, and Markov four.

Nine of twelve shots taken by Evgeni Malkin were blocked.

Plekanec won a team best 13 of 23 faceoffs.

Crosby took 23 of his team's 54 faceoffs, winning 15 of them.

The Canadiens gave up no goals in the five powerplay awarded to the Penguins.

Josh Georges had two of those five calls, but still came out +3 on the night. He leads the club with a +17 rating.

The five busiest Canadiens on the penalty kill were Komisarek (5:21), Markov (5:09), Hamrlik (4:44), Kovalev (4:19) and Lapierre (3:57).

Oddly, both the two first goals by each team shared similarities. All four came on swift plays from behind the net. The first two of Kostitsyn's goal were due to extra time given to Plekanec behind the goal, where he ably set up AK46 as cruised into the slot. The first Penguins score resulted from a lively backboard bounce on a wide shot, that either Price or Komisarek ended up pushing over the goal line. The Penguins second marker came when Crosby perfectly filtered a wraparound backboards feed to his forehand, beating Price, who had just slid crosscrease to the opposite side in anticipation of a shot.

Both Crosby, and Pens coach Michel Therrien credited Price with stealing the win, in post game interviews. You have to giggle when opponants fail to credit an entire team with beating them, as was the case tonight. Here are their two post game clips:

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