The shootout at Robert Guertin arena lasted just one period, but it seemed like it would never end.
Through a flurry of defensive miscues and endless scoring chances, the prospect-laden teams of the Montreal Canadiens and Phoenix Coyotes combined to net nine of the game’s 13 total goals in the opening frame.
The game, a 7-6 Canadiens win when the smoke cleared, seemed destined to be the type of game where the last team to touch the puck would win. But after the sloppy first period came to a conclusion, the nerves seemed to settle and both teams dropped into a more defensively conscious match.
“Both teams were a little anxious but towards the second period it closed down a bit and we started playing our game,” says Canadiens defenceman Mike Komisarek.
“Everyone’s got a job to do out there and we just have to go out there and do it. If we battle and compete (on defence) our offence is talented enough to take care of itself.”
The winning goal was notched late in the third period as Canadiens defenceman Eric Dagenais took a cross-ice pass on the powerplay and picked the top corner over goaltender Josh Blackburn’s glove hand. The long shot was beautifully placed but provided another example of shaky goaltending on a night that was full of them.
Canadiens goaltender Chris Houle allowed Phoenix to jump out to a quick 2-0 lead before the game was two-minutes old. He was caught playing deep in his crease and both Martin Podlesak and Ladislav Kouba took advantage with stoppable shots from the wing.
Blackburn also struggled throughout the night, especially on his blocker side and in controlling rebounds. The Canadiens’ forwards took advantage of those weaknesses all night, to mount their comeback and take the game.
Podlesak finished with three goals on the night, as he and linemate Frantisek Lukes quickly found chemistry in a game that lacked it early.
“My linemates gave me some nice passes and I thought we played well,” says Podlesak, who proved a constant nuisance to the Montreal defence. “I’ve played a few times with Frankie back home, but it’s about keeping your head up out there.
“I can play better, but it’s good to get a couple of goals like I did tonight.”
Though he played a strong game overall, he did find himself on the wrong end of a collision with Komisarek. After the puck jumped off Komisarek’s stick by the bence, Podlesak saw an opportunity to hit the big Canadiens defenceman, but ended up on his back.
“I just played the body and I fell down,” he says. “He had a good center of stability”
“Sometimes you just see a guy coming out of the corner of your eye,” says Komisarek, who says he feigned not knowing it was coming. “I just put my shoulder into him and he went down.”
Komisarek’s game ended early though, after getting into a scrap with Phoenix top-prospect, Fredrik Sjostrom. The fight lasted all of five seconds before the linesmen pulled the much larger Komisarek off his opponent in the one-sided battle.
“I don’t know how it happened,” says Komisarek. “We just kinda got tangled up and when I went to turn back into the play he gave me a little shot. But it stinks because I got thrown out of the game.”
Sjostrom says it may have been something that stemmed from the times they’ve played against each other in international games, but says he’s not going to back down from a fight.
“He just asked me if I wanted to fight and I said yes,” says Sjostrom, who managed to tally an assist before leaving the game. “I wasn’t really expecting it when he dropped the gloves. I’m not a fighter but I wasn’t going to say no.”
Sjostrom says he struggled to find chemistry early with his linemates, but will try to put his speed to better use in the next game.
“I wasn’t there tonight, that first game was just a grind,” he says. “I have to skate more and go to the middle of the net. They expect me to play better.”
For the Habs, both Jean Morin and Tomas Plekanec played excellent games to help earn the victory. Morin potted two goals and two assists, while Plekanec netted two beautiful goals of his own. The one goal was a one-timer off a feed from Komisarek that he deposited into the net low, near-side from the slot. His second goal was a fake slap-shot from the high slot that pulled the goaltender out of his net before faking a pass across the crease and depositing his shot top-shelf.
“Tonight was a good measuring stick to see where we are,” says Komisarek, “but I don’t think we can be satisfied.”
Morin and Podlesak were each team’s respective stars in the game.