Poor Len here, barely able to contain myself after last night's excellent game between the Montréal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning, in le Centre Bell, the Vatican of hockey, in Montréal. When the two teams last met, in Florida a week ago, the Lightning had no trouble beating the Habs, who scored only one goal.
In fact, in their last five games prior to last night's encounter, les Glorieux managed only four goals, a goals-per-game average of 0.80. You don't win many games that way, even if you do have the world's best goaltender between the pipes, and it was beginning to look to YVT and many other fans as if the Habs' carrots were cooked, for this season at least. [Readers baffled by that idiom may e-mail Walt at the usual address, and all will be explained. Ed.]
Every Tim Hortons, every pub in Montréal and across Canada -- excepting Toronto which doesn't count -- is alive with discussions and debates about what to do. Trade rumours abound. References to the parentage of Montréal General Manager Marc Bergevin are heard. Complaints about the performance of certain players are rife, none more loud and nasty than those about Habs captain Max Pacioretty. That Mad Max is an American who can't learn to speak French has not helped his cause.
Last night, however, Pacioretty redeemed himself, temporarily at least, scoring the Canadiens' first goal (and only) goal of regulation time, early in the 2nd period, on a beautiful pass from Phillip Danault. TB scored the equalizer about a minute later. Both goalies, Carey Price and TB's Alexandre Vasilevskiy, were in top form, and so the game remained tied 1-1 until the final siren.
Five minutes of three-on-three overtime ensued. That the score remained 1-1 was due almost entirely to the heroics of Carey Price as seen in this short video.
That is what I call a "Gump Worsley save". Fans of the late, great (and funny) goalie, who played some of his best hockey for the Habs, will know what I mean. With no result in the overtime, the teams went to a shootout, in which Montréal's Paul Byron potted the only goal. Final score: Montréal 2 - Tampa Bay 1!
Is it possible that la Sainte Flannelle, which turned in a huge effort born of desperation, can play like that for another 40 or 41 games? Frankly, I doubt it. But at least the flame of hope has not yet been extinguished.