All eyes were on the Canadiens in the Bell Centre this evening, every one of them waiting to see how the team would respond after a dismal showing in Toronto this past Saturday.
Far from disappointing, the Canadiens treated their hometown faithful (in their first opportunity to see the Habs on home ice in over two weeks) to the best 60 minutes of hockey the club has pieced together all season long.
Montreal came flying out of the gate and looked like the strong, skilled team that most prognosticators have been telling us all about. Opening the scoring midway through the first frame with a short-handed goal after reeling in Saku Koivu's hail-mary pass, Christopher Higgins completed his first career hat-trick late in the third period with another spectacular breakaway goal.
Ottawa, too, put together a solid game, but continued to suffer from a lack of secondary offense and could not solve Carey Price on a night in which the 21 year old goaltender was simply spectacular. Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley were both very good, but could not slip one past the determined Price.
At the end of the day, Montreal's crisp puck-moving and aggressive physical play outmatched Ottawa in the first of 6 (and maybe more, heading into May or June) battles between the two teams this season. As expected, both teams were looking to make an early statement and played a very hard-fought and amazingly entertaining game.
By a slimmer margin than the final score would lead you to believe, Montreal was the better team tonight and for the first time in some time, deserved to win.