The Habs won a weird one, massively outshot but dominant on the scoresheet, where it counts. How weird was it? Facing a Panthers team that had won 5 of 6, that has made a meal of the Habs since coming into the league, that soundly whipped them the last time they played, and that has one of the hottest goalies in the NHL, the Habs scored on their first 3 shots and chased Tomas Vokoun not once, but twice in the same night. Meanwhile, Cristobal Huet made over 40 saves, while managing to look strangely unharassed for most of the evening.
In their last two games - on consecutive nights in the Sunshine State - the Habs have scored 10 goals, with 20 different players collecting points, while allowing just 3 against. They've done it while rolling four balanced lines and playing Carbo's perimeter defense to perfection. They've also, however, been extremely fortunate in facing goalies who, in the words of HIO blogger Mike Boone, have looked like they are "on acid".
This was a very good match for Chris Higgins, who broke out with a 1 goal, 2 assist game. Both assists were absolute beauties, one a gift to a no-doubt grateful Michael Ryder (his monkey's gone to heaven), the other a superb cross-ice feed to a sneaky Mark Streit. Higgins looked like a superstar on this night.
Cristobal Huet was superb. Despite handling more rubber than a Nascar pit-monkey over 60 minutes, he never looked rattled. Don't let the score fool you: there were lots of opportunities - on the power-play, especially - for the Panthers to get back in this one, but Huet never gave them a chance. Price may be the man down the road, but Huet is the man of the moment: very fortunate for Price to be playing with another strong goalie at this point in his career.
A few concerns: the power-play, despite a late goal, is drying up. And the Habs lead-protection strategy remains a heart-attack, as they circle the wagons and let the opposition send wave after wave of attack at them. Finally, while the Habs remain basically a sure thing when they are leading after one, you can't help but wonder why they can't come back from even a one goal deficit with 40 minutes left in the game. And why can't they do this sort of thing at home??? On the road, the Habs are 2nd only to Ottawa, while they have won just 6 out of 17 at home. But perhaps it's poor form to criticize after such a pleasing result ... get the very enjoyable stats here.
One more game - against the Rangers - on the road, then back to Montreal, which hopefully will be a more hospitable place for the home team in 2008.