MONTREAL – The best way to go out on a high note is to play Game 82 like it’s a Game 7.
Both the Habs and Leafs headed into Saturday’s season finale knowing that, win or lose, the results of the game wouldn’t mean much in the standings. The Canadiens didn’t appear to receive that message before the game.
“The last few games and the last while, the effort of the group has been tremendous from the coaches to the players,” praised Habs head coach Randy Cunneyworth following his team’s 4-1 win to close out the campaign. “The way they played down to the end when there was little to play for says a lot about them.”
From Tomas Plekanec getting the Canadiens on the board with the team’s first 3-on-5 shorthanded goal since Guy Carbonneau did so 29 years ago to enforcer Brad Staubitz potting his first goal as a Hab – and his first in 62 games – into an empty net from 200 feet away, the team gave the Bell Centre faithful plenty to cheer about on Fan Appreciation Night.
“Finally! That monkey grew pretty big on my back – I think he was weighing me down there a little bit,” joked Staubitz, who is more accustomed to doing his best work with his gloves off with a team-leading 15 fights this season. “It was pretty exciting. I have to thank the coach for giving me a chance to get out there and give me an opportunity to try and sneak one in on the last game of the year. I just spun and fired and I got a good bounce. This definitely makes me believe in hockey Gods.”
Having been claimed off waivers from Minnesota just over a month ago, Staubitz hasn’t had much experience with the Habs-Leafs rivalry yet, but he’s proving to be a pretty quick study.
“I think it was great for this organization. We came out, we played hard and you see guys laying out to block shots from [Blake] Geoffrion to Erik Cole laying out there in front of a slap shot,” shared Staubitz of the veteran winger who slid head first in front of a Dion Phaneuf shot just after scoring his 35th goal of the season. “That’s a hard thing to do and it was to win one game and to win it for your team and the logo on your jersey. That showed a lot of character in here.”
Even in the waning minutes of the game, the Habs were throwing themselves in harm’s way, blocking 21 shots to the Leafs’ seven on the night to help preserve the final victory. Peter Budaj made sure to take care of the rest.
“Look at that Erik Cole block late in the third – fans appreciate that kind of thing,” mentioned Budaj, who kicked aside 30 of the 31 shots he faced in his 17th start of the season. “I want to say thank you to the fans; they stuck with us throughout this tough time and they showed a lot of support.
“Those are the best fans [in the league],” he added. “We’re going to learn from our mistakes this year and it’s going to be a long summer but that gives us more time to prepare and get ready for next season.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
Postgame comments: Eller | St-Denis | Budaj | Desharnais
Thank you, fans!
The Numbers Game - April 7, 2012
Boxscore: Canadiens-Maple Leafs
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