I do not have time to write much, so I'm just going to say last night was more of a complete game than I've seen in a while.
Guys were hitting. They appeared hungry. The massive defensive breakdowns were not present at the Garden last night. And it made a difference. Sharp game against a strong division rival.
Of course, the real story for me, and yes for many, was the highly publicized return of one Petr Prucha. After ten games as a healthy scratch, he refused his conditioning assignment to Hartford earlier this week. When I heard Renney was going to play him last night, I was relieved it wasn't with Drury, for one. Give him a chance with someone else. And I was just hoping he would be given ice time to do something. Double shifted at times, skating on his starting line of Dubinsky and Voros, and then at times with Betts and Sjostrom, it was on the latter, and in a situation where Scott Gomez was on the ice, where he got his big chance.
Down by one, less than six minutes to go. Gomez, having a monster game, shot the puck and the rebound came to - Petr Prucha. He smacked it home and if the celebration seemed to last for an even longer time than usual, well it's because it did. Joy. Relief. And a chance in a game that might have been over. A chance in a career that many had thought might have been over.
One goal does not change the world. But everyone - fans, teammates, media - felt how important that goal was, for countless reasons. I personally hope it's the beginning of many, and I know I am not alone.
Only ironic in that the goal came off a Gomez shot - Gomez who Prucha has not played with since the Swiss pre-season games, and who many think would make a good linemate for him. Gomez had this to say about Prucha. For not the most eloquent of guys, this really says it all:
"I think if you look at the reaction on the bench, we probably all cried," Gomez said. "For what the guy has gone through, that's a true professional. Not once has he ever complained. He skates every day after (practice). He's a great teammate. He doesn't say a word. If there are parents out there that want their kids to be a hockey player and a great guy, you've got to look at Petr Prucha."