MONTREAL – It was a rough week for Sergei Kostitsyn, but the Montreal Canadiens winger may have made up for it with a solid game Thursday night.
Kostitsyn scored the lone regulation goal for the Canadiens in their 2-1 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins in NHL pre-season action. The maligned forward also drew a penalty and was far more noticeable on the ice than he’s been the entire pre-season.
“It was without a doubt his best game so far,” said Habs head coach Jacques Martin. “He went to the net, he was involved, he did some good things.”
It couldn’t have come at a better time as Kostitsyn has been out of favour with Martin of late. First, he missed the team bus Sunday for an exhibition game against the Bruins in Quebec City. Then Kostitsyn was loudly disciplined by Martin during practice Wednesday, well within earshot of the Montreal media.
“I don’t care about that,” Kostitsyn said. “I’m just trying to play hockey.”
Marc Stuart scored his first of the pre-season for the Bruins (4-1-1), while Patrice Bergeron added the shootout winner and Tim Thomas stopped Scott Gomez on Montreal’s final attempt.
The Bruins iced a lineup featuring only nine regulars, with Zdeno Chara, Marc Savard, David Krejci, Marco Sturm and Milan Lucic among those getting the night off.
“Up front I don’t think they had a ton of guys missing, so for our young guys I thought they competed pretty well,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “Whether those guys stay with us or not, we’ve got to know before some of those guys leave that we can rely on them down the road. It was important for them to show tonight that they can play at this level.”
Both goaltenders were sharp, with Montreal’s Jaroslav Halak stopping 26 shots and his Boston counterpart Thomas making 33 saves, including six in overtime.
The performance dropped Halak’s pre-season goals-against average below two and improved his save percentage to .938.
“He was probably our best player tonight,” said Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec. “He was focused and he was sharp.”
Habs winger Mike Cammalleri did not come out for the second period after suffering what the team called a lower body injury. The Canadiens already have Max Pacioretty, Maxim Lapierre, Georges Laraque and Paul Mara nursing injuries, while Roman Hamrlik is still recovering from a virus.
“It’s a lot more precautionary, nothing serious,” Martin said. “We wanted to make sure it didn’t get worse.”
The Canadiens also had a scare at 12:34 of the third period when Bruins forward Vladimir Sobotka made contact with Halak behind the Canadiens goal. Halak’s mask came flying off and he was lying on the ice holding his head, but stayed in the game. Sobotka received no penalty on the play.
“I’ve got to keep my head up,” Halak said. “For me, I think that was a bad call. It should have been at least two minutes.”
Plekanec played on a line with Kostitsyn after Cammalleri left the game, and he noted that Kostitsyn worked hard. That diligence led to the opening goal.
After Plekanec lost an offensive zone faceoff, Kostitsyn forced Bruins defenceman Adam McQuaid to cough the puck back up to Plekanec. His shot was partially stopped by Thomas, but Kostitsyn swept it in at :59 of the second period for his first of the pre-season.
The Bruins tied it up at 1:37 of the third, with former Canadian Michael Ryder sending a nifty pass from behind the net to the onrushing Stuart, who cut across to his backhand and beat Halak.
Both teams had power play opportunities in overtime but failed to capitalize.
Notes: Former Canadiens D Patrice Brisebois, who announced his retirement after an 18-year career before the game, was presented with the Jean Beliveau Trophy prior to the game. The trophy honours Canadiens players for their charitable work in the community. Brisebois received a lengthy ovation from the sellout Bell Centre crowd of 21,273.