Cristobal Huet celebrates the Canadiens historic shootout win on February 19, 2008. Photo: (David Boily/Canadian Press)
The Montreal Canadiens haven’t had a Stanley Cup to celebrate in nearly 20 years, but the events of February 19, 2008 may have been just as good for present-day Habs fans.
Facing the New York Rangers, the 2008 Canadiens accomplished what no other team in franchise history had ever done.
The Rangers’ Brandon Dubinsky, Sean Avery scored 14 seconds apart and Brendan Shanahan added a power-play goal for a total of three goals in a n a five-minute span in the first period. Carey Price, who to this point had been stellar in his prior three starts, was quickly chased for the Habs net, after allowing the trio of goals on just 11 shots in 13:56 of ice time.
It didn’t get any better for the Canadiens in the second period. Chris Higgins was sent to the penalty box for a double high-sticking minor and the top ranked Rangers power play units took advantage with goals from Shanahan and Chris Drury.
The visiting team was up 5-0 just 5:02 into the second period. The full house at the Bell Centre that Tuesday night was less than amused, as were fans watching in disbelief around the world.
But it wasn’t over. The Bell Centre fans stayed in their seats and those who didn’t turn off the game were in for something special. The players themselves weren’t giving up either.
Limited to just six shots in the second period, the home team managed to get a pair past Henrik Lunqvist , thanks to Michael Ryder.
Michael Ryder scores on Henrik Lundqvist–Feb 19, 2008
Michael Ryder scores his second of the night. February 19, 2008
The answer would be yes!
Alex Kovalev put the home team within two goals at 6:43. Then nine seconds later….
Mark Streit deflects a Michael Ryder shot past Lundqvist–February 19, 2008
A hooking call on Marek Malik at 14:22 of the final period was the opportunity the Canadiens would need to tie this game up.
With the man advantage Andrei Kostitsyn scooped up the puck in the corner and dished it out to the faceoff circle, where Kovalev one-timed it past Lunqvist.
Alex Kovalev ties the game against the Rangers–February 19, 2008.
“When I was laying down, I could see that there was nobody sitting,” Kovalev said. “It’s unbelievable. The fans have always been great to me. It definitely makes you give more back and I’m trying to play as hard as I can for them. A game like this, we just had to keep playing and you never know what will happen.”
The Canadiens kept the Rangers to just five shots in the final period, and a pair in a scoreless five minutes of overtime.
It was off to the shootout, where Cristobal Huet stopped Shanahan and Drury. Lundqvist had done likewise on Andrei Markov.
The Canadiens second shooter would be captain Saku Koivu, and he delivered.
"I haven't been part of a game like this," Koivu said. "It was a pretty incredible atmosphere in the last 10, 15 minutes. It just shows how quickly things can turn around. They came back last game and tonight it was our turn."
Huet, who stopped 19 of 21 shots in regulation and overtime, was now left to face Jaromir Jagr and slammed the door shut, marking the greatest comeback in franchise history.
"What a great effort, what a great feeling at the end," said defenceman Mike Komisarek. "My ears are still ringing from that crowd."
The game was featured in the Canadiens DVD set, highlighting the ten greatest games in franchise history.
Five years later, a handful of Canadiens are on the current roster; Carey Price, Andrei Markov, Francis Bouillon, Tomas Plekanec and Josh Gorges.
Also on this day..
1955: Bernie Geoffion scores five goals and adds an assist in the Canadiens 10-2 win over the New York Rangers. Four of "Boom-Boo's" goals came on the power play, which still stands as a franchise record.Doug Harvey set a team record for assists by a defenseman with five in the same game.
1966: Dick Duff’s fist hat trick with the Canadiens leads them to a 5-2 win over the Chicago Black Hawks.
1977: Yvan Cournoyer’s two goals against the Philadelphia Flyers gives him 400 in his NHL career. “The Roadrunner” became the third player in franchise history to reach the milestone.
The Canadiens defeated Philadelphia 5-2, extending their unbeaten streak to 23 games (18-0-5).
In the same game, Jacques Lemaire scored his 300th goal to become the sixth Habs player to reach that mark.
1990: Russ Courtnall’s goal on a penalty shot gives him his second career hat trick, in a 5-5 tie with the Detroit Red Wings.
Habs Born on This Day: Gary Leeman (1964) Kyle Chipchura (1986)