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Captain crunch time

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
MONTREAL – Scoring goals is one thing. Doing so when it really counts is something else entirely. Saku Koivu could have told you that.

With his team in danger of fumbling away a crucial pair of points against the bottom-feeding Tampa Bay Lightning, Koivu took matters into his own hands in overtime. Vincent Lecavalier and the Bolts never knew what hit them.

“That’s just Saku, he always comes through. Seeing him do that doesn’t surprise anyone in this dressing room,” shrugged Higgins, Koivu’s former longtime linemate. “We all know what he can do when the game is on the line.”

It was another feather in the cap for Koivu’s new line formed with Alex Kovalev and Alex Tanguay, which has accounted for seven of the Habs last nine goals in their two games as a trio.

“I keep telling those two guys to shoot, but they keep making those great plays instead!” said Koivu with a smile. “I know what kind of beautiful plays they can make, but heading into playoffs, the goals won’t all be pretty. We need to create traffic and keep things simple. It won’t always be cute, but we’ll score that way.”

The OT winner was his second since Bob Gainey took over as head coach, with Koivu also sealing the deal in overtime in his GM’s first game behind the bench back on March 10 against the Oilers.

“It’s never great to give up a 2-0 lead like we did tonight, but the important thing is we stuck to our game plan, played our style and ended up with the two points,” offered Koivu, who had almost too much time to flip the OT winner over Karri Ramo. “The puck just landed right in front of me and I guess I got too excited and I didn’t get it in the first time, but I made sure that second one went in.”

What followed the game winner was uncustomary elaborate celebration by the Habs’ captain.

“Yeah it wasn’t exactly like Ovechkin. My stick isn’t as hot as his,” laughed Koivu in reference to the much-downloaded highlight of the NHL’s leading scorer hovering over his stick as if it was on fire after notching his 50th goal of the season.

Koivu’s eruption of emotion after his overtime clincher against the Lightning had nothing to do with hot-dogging and everything to do with what the Stanley Cup playoffs are all about.

“The older you get, the more emotional it is when playoff time rolls around. No one wants to battle through 82 games only to miss the playoffs,” explained Koivu. “When you’re 20 or 21 years old, you can tell yourself that you have 15 more years left to make the playoffs. But in my case, I want to make the playoffs. I don’t want to miss out on that.”

Manny Almela is a writer for

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