MONTREAL (CP) – Montreal defenceman Craig Rivet feels there are certain players in the NHL who are employed to do more than play hockey.
Viktor Kozlov scored a power play goal with just over a minute to play in regulation and Roberto Luongo made 36 saves to give the Florida Panthers a 1-1 tie Saturday with the Canadiens.
Rivet was assessed a penalty by Chris Lee for hauling down Craig MacDonald in front of the Montreal net with just over two minutes to play in regulation. Kozlov scored just over a minute later to tie the game with 71 seconds to play in the third.
“I think it was more of a make-up call, if anything,” said Rivet, who was booed by many in the crowd of 20,428 in the overtime period. “I barely even touched the guy, and he went down like a ton of bricks. Some guys’ jobs in this league is to play that style of game. With two minutes left in the
game, if you put your hand on them, they’re going to go down to see if they can draw a penalty, and they did.”
Michael Ryder scored a power play goal for the Canadiens (10-11-2-1), who have a point in three of their last four games. But Saturday’s point did not satisfy Habs coach Claude Julien.
“We had two points within our reach, and the questionable penalty called near the end of the game cost us a point,” he said. “But we have to live with it.”
It was a good turnaround for the Panthers (9-13-4-0), who blew a 3-1 third period and lost 4-3 in Buffalo a night earlier.
Jose Theodore made 23 saves for Montreal, including some key stops on breakaways by Olli Jokinen and Kristian Huselius in the third period, to remain at 99 career wins.
“We got a big game out of Jose,” said Habs coach Claude Julien. “He made some big saves in the third.”
Luongo was especially brilliant in the second period, making 12 saves including a highlight-reel glove grab on a Pierre Dagenais slapshot with just over a minute to play in the period.
“We showed a lot of character,” Luongo said of the dramatic win. “We had a few chances before (Kozlov’s goal) and Theo made some big saves. It was a big point for us in the standings.”
The Canadiens power play, which entered the game ranked 24th in the NHL, scored for the fourth time in five games. The penalty killing unit, ranked 29th in the league coming in, allowed only its second power play goal in five games.
“I think the power play’s going a lot better, we’re getting more chances,” Ryder said. “We’re moving the puck better, after a while it’s got to go in.”
The entertainment value was lacking for much of the game, as both teams were coming off games the night before. Florida was in Buffalo, while the Canadiens downed the Capitals 5-3 in Washington in a rare display of offence.
It didn’t take Florida long to capitalize after Rivet went to the penalty box at 17:43 of the third. With Luongo on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, Jay Bouwmeester got the puck at the point. He found Kozlov all alone to Theodore’s right, and he waited for the Montreal netminder to drop before lifting one upstairs for his sixth of the year at 18:49 of the third.
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” said Florida coach and general manager Rick Dudley of pulling Luongo with about 90 seconds to play.
“That’s the point of playing in this league,” Kozlov said, “to play until the end.”
Ryder scored at 4:14 of the third while Florida defenceman Mike Van Ryn was sitting out the first of two high-sticking minors he was assessed for clipping Steve Begin.
Ryder came out from behind the net and eluded Luongo’s outstretched stick and slid the puck through his legs for his fifth goal of the season.
Kozlov had two chances to win it in the last minute of overtime, but he rang a backhand shot off the post and another shot from the slot was stopped by Theodore.
“Better luck next time,” Kozlov quipped.
Notes: Canadiens rookie defenceman Mike Komisarek dressed for a second straight game, forcing Andrei Markov to the press box. Komisarek, who played on the right side Friday, played on the left side Saturday. Enforcer Darren Langdon was also a healthy scratch . . . The Panthers didn’t dress wingers Jaroslav Bednar, Mikael Samuelsson and defenceman Grant McNeil.