After scoring only a single goal for the fourth time in six games the Montreal Canadiens are now on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Atlanta Thrashers came back to win in a shootout against the Boston Bruins last night lifting the Thrashers one point over the now ninth place Canadiens. The Toronto Maple Leafs are now just three points back of the Canadiens as three power play goals lifted the Leafs to a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Islanders opened the scoring nine minutes and eleven seconds into the first period when Sean Bergenheim scored his third career NHL goal on a wrap around. Brent Sopel and Michael York drew assists on the Bergenheim goal. The very next shift Alexander Perezhogin exploded across the Islanders blue line but was hauled down resulting in a full two minute five on three for the Canadiens. Rick DiPietro stymied the Canadiens for the first minute and fifty-three seconds of the two-man advantage. However with just seven seconds left on the power play Mike Ribeiro fed a back door pass to Mark Streit who banked the puck off the post and DiPietro’s right pad to even the score. The Canadiens out shot the Islanders through twenty minutes by a fourteen to eight count although the majority of the Canadiens shots came while on the two-man advantage.
Robert Nilsson broke the second period deadlock when a slap shot from just inside the Canadiens blue line. The shot was deflected by Canadiens defenseman Sheldon Souray passed Cristobal Huet. The Canadiens enjoyed the only power play of the period but were unable to beat DiPietro on their ten second period shots.
Montreal would have two more opportunities on the power play in the third period but those were thwarted by impressive Islander shot blocking and timely saves by DiPietro. The Islanders increased their lead when Jason Blake took a pass in the slot from Nilsson and beat Huet five hole with a slap shot. Late in the game Bob Gainey removed Huet from the Canadiens net in favour of an extra attacker but the Canadiens were unable to create much offensively as they spent much of the final minutes hemmed in their own zone.
DiPietro had the crowd on their feet once again when he attempted to score on the vacant Canadiens cage. His attempt was blocked however by Canadiens defenders. The Canadiens and especially Alex Kovalev finished the game a very frustrated bunch. Kovalev was sent to the box for roughing after dropping his gloves and throwing a few punches Chris Campoli’s way. Kovalev’s punches were in response to several cross checks he had received moments before while camping out in front of Rick DiPitreo’s crease.
The Canadiens will now return home to play back-to-back home games against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday and Saturday evening.
1. R. DiPietro
2. R. Nilsson
3. S. Bergenheim
1. Despite out shooting their opponents in four of their last five games the Canadiens have managed to win just one in those games.
2. Six of the Canadiens next seven games will be played at the Bell Centre.
3. Saku Koivu has now been held scoreless for nineteen consecutive games, but on a positive note the last time he scored was against the Leafs. Koivu had two goals that night one of which was the winner in overtime.
4. Although the Canadiens are having trouble scoring Mike Ribeiro kept his point streak in tact which is now at five games.