Habs’ Experience Throws Series Wide Open

Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez were pivotal to the New Jersey Devils’ Stanley Cup win in 2003. The double-act seem to be on the same page this year as the Montreal Canadiens got off to the perfect start against the Boson Bruins in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.

Carey Price was Montreal’s star, shutting out the Bruins and making 31 saves in the process. However, on two occasions Gomez set up Gionta, who made no mistake to beat Tim Thomas to give the first game to the Canadiens.

The Bruins dominated large parts of the game, particularly the second period. But Price was clearly thriving under the pressure, as the home side became more impatient and frustrated.

Gionta has clearly taken the good form produced at the tail end of the regular season into the playoffs. His two goals in Game One against the Bruins will give Gionta a lot of confidence.

More amazingly for Montreal is the manner in which Scott Gomez has responded to his worst season in his 13-year career. When Gomez was gifted the puck early on in the Boston zone, it didn’t take him long to pick out Gionta to open the scoring.

“I don’t know if you guys get it now, but it’s all about the win. It’s not about me; it’s about the team” said Gomez.

The second period was in truth a montage of Carey Price saves and missed opportunities by both sides. Gomez grabbed his second assist in setting up Gionta once again in the final period.

Although Boston dominated large parts of the game, some magic from Price and some opportunistic and experienced play from Gomez and Gionta warranted a hard-fought win for the Habs.

I’ve been fortunate that I was able to get the puck to Gio,” added Gomez. “It’s been working for a long time. He’s a goal-scorer. Even when he’s in a drought, I know who pays the bills.”

But it doesn’t end there for Gomez and Gionta. Game Two will be even tougher, and the Bruins are certain to sure up their defense. Last season, Gionta and Gomez had a fairly quiet post-season. It was Mike Cammalleri and Jaroslav Halak who helped the Canadiens to stun both the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In order for the Canadiens to win the series against Boston they need Price, Gionta and Gomez to play consistently well, but will also need help from the likes of Mike Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn.

There is a lot of hockey left in the series, but so far Montreal will be full of hope. The key will be consistency, and the Bruins will have learnt a lot from Game One. Game Two on Saturday night will be thrilling, but a loss for the Bruins will mean the Canadiens can start thinking about the next round.

There is a long way to go but Jacques Martin will be pleased with the manner and commitment his side showed against a tough team. Montreal are far from home and dry, but last night’s win has blown the series wide open.

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