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There was a playoff atmosphere in Montreal as the Montreal Canadiens came from behind to beat the Ottawa Senators with the winning goal in the final minute of play.  With a strong defensive performance, the feisty Habs kept the Sens attack at a minimum and capitalized on their chances to push them a little clearer of Buffalo in the race for the playoffs.


One of the things that the Habs had to watch was the penalty situation against a team that’s the best in the NHL on the powerplay.  Unfortunately, the first goal of the night came while Montreal had a man in the box when Martin Havlat scored off of Stephane Quintal’s skate.


On this night, though, Montreal was not to be outdone, and less than a minute later, on their own powerplay, some very hard work in front of the Ottawa goal by Richard Zednik eventually resulted in a Hab goal as Michael Ryder picked up the third rebound and stuffed it home.  It was the 17th of the season for Ryder, and, as usual, had him in just the right position.


The second was another very intense period and provided the fans with some more intense play.  One of the keys to Montreal‘s game was a tight checking defence, but they balanced that with an effective counter-attack game.  Despite holding the edge in shots, though, the Habs fell behind with less than a minute left in the period when Karl Dykhuis coughed up the puck in his own zone and Mike Fisher capitalized for his first of the year.  Jose Theodore could see hothing as Quintal provided a very solid screen.


It took less than six minutes into the third for Montreal to tie the score.  Ryder took a pass at the Ottawa blueline on the powerplay, eased himself slowly into the zone, then fired a partially screened shot into the top shelf on Patrick Lalime. 


The rest of the period consisted substantially of end to end play with strong chances at both goals.  Lalime and Theodore both played very good hockey and as a result of the overall play, the tension in the rink was palpable, even for the television viewer.  More than once the commentators voices were drowned out by the enthusiastic sell-out crowd at the Bell Centre.


Zednik, in the midst of an awful slump, earned himself a breakaway, with Joe Juneau, when he streaked out of the penalty box and stripped the puck from Zdeno Chara, who was winding up for a shot.  However, as many will do when they’re struggling, Zednik made too many moves and squandered the two-on-none situation.


A short time later, Mike Ribeiro, in an attempt to slickly move around Wade Redden, had the puck stripped and that sent the Senators flying the other way with numbers.  It was only a tremendous defensive play by Ribeiro himself that saved the day; he managed to just get the blade of his stick on the puck which was intended for the Ottawa player in the high slot.


Finally, Montreal’s consistent pressure and intensity won the day.  Taking the puck at the blueline, Francis Bouillon ripped a shot that caromed off Karel Rachunek’s ankle, sending him to the ice in obvious pain.  ‘Cube’ collected the puck again, fired a second time, and this time the puck was deflected by an Ottawa stick.  The puck dribbled to the goal where Steve Begin backhanded it through the legs of Lalime for the winner.


The Habs cemented the game with an empty net goal from Juneau late, and thereafter celebrated a very satisfying victory.