Being hockey’s oldest franchise at almost 105 years-old, the Montreal Canadiens are bound to have some memorable games, and memorable games they have had. En route to winning 24 Stanley Cups, they have also had amazing comebacks. May 10, 1979 the Boston Bruins were called for too many men when Guy Lafleur tied game 5 of the semi-final in the final minute, before winning the Cup a few weeks later. In the 1993 Stanley Cup Final, also down by one at the Forum, coach Jacques Demers asked for a stick measurement on Marty McSorley. Indeed it was an illegal stick, handing him a two-minute minor, clearing the path for Eric Desjardins’ equalizer and overtime winning goal. Again, they won Lord Stanley’s shrine.
Another Great Comeback for the Canadiens
But since then, the team has never won a championship but has had some sweet comebacks in the 21st century. The biggest rally in the franchise’s history was February 19, 2008 when they were down 5-0 to the New York Rangers halfway through the second. Thanks to a hat trick by Michael Ryder and relentless effort by leaders Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev, the Habs stormed all the way back to win 6-5 in shootouts.
Then, just seven months ago, on March 15, a Saturday night classic unfolded at the Bell Center when the bleu-blanc-rouge scored three goals in the final 3:22, including the tying goal with under a second left by David Desharnais. They would later win in overtime thanks to the unlikely hero, Francis Bouillon, leaving many Habs fans to question if that was a better comeback than the one 2008.
Then now, just last night in Philadelphia, Michel Therrien’s troops orchestrated yet another great comeback in the teams history, definitely not the best though. Playing a third game in four nights to start the season, all on the road, the Tricolore allowed the Flyers to score two goals in 18 seconds just three minutes into the first, then Wayne Simmonds expanded the lead to 3-0 just 55 seconds into the third.
The Canadiens applied some pressure the rest of the second after about ten minutes of down time with not many chances by either team. Lars Eller had a glorious opportunity to score with four minutes to go in the second, he was alone to the right of goalie Ray Emery when he spun around to try to make a back door pass but failed to do so, making him look like a beer-league player. After two, the three-goal-leading Flyers dominated the shot board with 28 pucks fired at Carey Price while Ray Emery stopped all 18.
With momentum on the Habs side heading into the third, the Canadiens took 11 shots without having one against Price until about halfway through the frame. Andrei Markov broke Emery’s shutout bid 7:05 into the third with a bullet from the point that went through about 5 bodies before finding the back of the net.
Countless chances later by all four Canadiens lines in the next 2:08, Tomas Plekanec scored his fourth of the year- tied for a league lead- after Emery wasn’t able to corral a shot from P.A. Parenteau and the Habs’ assistant captain was waiting perfectly on the side of the net for a gaping cage. At this point, Habs players and fans alike new the Canadiens were right in this one even though they were still down by one.
Then, with just 5:20 to go, Markov at the blue line found Plekanec cross-rink, waiting just above the left hashmarks and he fired it on net, with Alex Gslchenyuk there battling Nick Schultz but still managing to get his stick on the puck and tie the game at three a piece.
The Flyers were gassed after they blew all their energy on the first two periods and had nothing left in the tank for overtime, and it showed as they didn’t generate many scoring chances on a 4-on-3 powerplay in OT, leading to a shootout. In the fourth round, with no pucks finding the net, Parenteau fired a shot high glove side past Emery to win the game. Comeback complete.
Two incredible comebacks in a calendar year for the Canadiens reflects the grittiness put forth by the management, starting with president and owner Geoff Molson to general manager Marc Bergevin and finally Therrien feeds it to his players. The Canadiens are 3-0-0 now this season, in all games they were trailing and the latter two they were down heading into the final frame. The team has a lot of character and many were questioning the team’s leadership when Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges left town for Buffalo in the off-season. Looks like their young leadership lead by Markov, Plekanec, PK Subban and Max Pacioretty is certainly paying off, especially under the circumstances the team has been in this year, with their gruelling schedule thus far.
Should their leadership remain constant like they showed last night, this team will be an elite team from October to April, and hopefully for them, all the way to June. Leadership is the difference between winning and losing hockey games. Now, the Canadiens are showing why.
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