With the victory in Tampa Bay last night the Canadiens moved to within two points of the seventh place Lightning while still holding a game at hand. The game was yet another impressive outing by Cristobal Huet who made twenty-two saves through two periods only allowing one goal during that time frame. Tampa finally scored their first power play goal on the Canadiens this season, although the Habs penalty kill was nothing short of spectacular last night. Radek Bonk and Steve Begin led the Canadiens in ice time both playing over eighteen minutes of which over half was spent while shorthanded.
The Canadiens opened the scoring early last night when Nolan Pratt hurried a pass to Cory Sarich, which was stolen by Michael Ryder. Ryder slid the puck to Chris Higgins who roofed the puck over John Grahame glove side only twelve seconds into the game. That goal by Higgins set a Tampa Bay record for quickest goal allowed to start a game. The Canadiens received the only four penalties of the first period but all attempts by Tampa Bay to score were either thwarted by the Canadiens penalty killers or Huet and his uncanny ability to smother rebounds. The period ended with Montreal being out shot ten to two.
With less then twenty seconds remaining in the Canadiens sixth penalty of the game Vaclav Prospal sent the Canadiens to their first power play of the game. The Canadiens first power play was unsuccessful all four Canadiens shots stopped by Grahame but only nine seconds after that power play expired Richard Zednik drew a Tim Taylor penalty sending the Canadiens to their second consecutive man advantage. This time however the Habs were successful after a misguided Ryder shot went behind the net Sheldon Souray slid the puck to the front of the net, Koivu allowed the puck to pass under his stick to Chris Higgins who scored his second goal of the game behind the sprawling Lightning goaltender. Ruslan Fedotenko ended Huet’s shutout bid with less then four minutes remaining in the second period when he received a no look pass from Vincent Lecavalier and beat the Canadiens goalie low blocker side. Alexander Perezhogin received a holding penalty with less than a minute remaining in the period. The second period was more evenly played but the Canadiens once again found themselves behind in shots twenty-three to ten through forty minutes.
With Perezhogin still in the penalty box Lecavalier tied the game at two’s with a wrist shot from the point that Huet never saw. The game was not tied very long less then three minutes later Mathieu Dandenault passed the puck to Richard Zednik who carried the puck over the Tampa Bay blue line and fooled Grahame with a tricky wrist shot. From there the Canadiens did not look back out shooting the Bolts twelve to six in the third period they added three insurance goals. The first insurance goal came off a Dandenault shot that was deflected in front of the net by Mike Ribero. The second was created less then three minutes later when Alex Kovalev stole a Pavel Kubina pass behind the Tampa net. Kovalev proceeded to wrap it around John Grahame, going far side for his sixteenth goal of the season. Jan Bulis scored the final insurance marker on a breakaway pass from Tomas Plekanec.
Official Three Stars