The Montreal Canadiens came out flying last night applying immediate pressure on the Maple Leafs defence. While cycling in the Leafs zone Richard Zednik was caught holding a stick that did not belong to him. On the ensuing Leafs power play Cristobal Huet was called upon to make a few key saves but the puck was launched down the ice on a regular basis thanks to Radek Bonk, Tomas Plekanec, Steve Begin and Garth Murray.
The Canadiens opened the scoring when Saku Koivu carried the puck down the right side of the Leafs zone and sent a saucer pass to Chris Higgins who buried his fourteenth goal of the season, Michael Ryder picked up an assist on the goal. Just twelve seconds later while being double shifted Alex Kovalev sent a beautiful pass to Bonk; Bonk carried the puck around the Leafs net drawing Leafs net minder Mikael Tellqvist out of position. With Tellqvist out of position Mathieu Dandenault immediately buried the Bonk pass to lift the Canadiens to a an early two goal lead.
Chad Kilger was given a retaliation penalty in the offensive zone when Mike Komisarek embellished a collision between the former teammates deep in the Canadiens zone. With thirty seconds remaining on the power play Mike Ribero danced around the Leafs penalty killer Nik Antropov and slid a pass to Sheldon Souray. Souray walked in and roofed his slap shot providing the Canadiens with a three-goal lead.
The two teams would each have one more opportunity on the power play before the period ended. Cristobal Huet made an enormous save on Darcy Tucker who was left alone for a one timer deep in the slot; the Habs would eventually kill off the Leafs power play. Unfortunately for the Leafs the Habs power play would not be an unsuccessful one. Kovalev received a pass from Craig Rivet and walked into the right circle firing his shot off the crossbar and into the Leafs net once again lifting the Bell Centre crowd out of the seats.
Toronto and Montreal traded second period goals. Jeff O’Neill scored from a bad angle on the power play, Kyle Wellwood and Tomas Kaberle picked up assists on the only Leafs goal of the evening. Alexander Perezhogin tallied for the Canadiens on a wrap around; it was his ninth of his rookie camping. Fellow rookie Tomas Plekanec picked up his sixteenth assist of the season.
The third period was a scoreless one that ended in a scrap between Ben Ondrus and Garth Murray; both players traded punches with no clear victor as they fell to the ice.
Jan Bulis joined Niklas Sundstrom and Aaron Downey as healthy scratches for the Canadiens and Bob Gainey decided to dress seven defensemen. Francis Bouillon missed his third straight game due to a leg injury suffered against the Penguins. Tie Domi, Clarke Wilm and Andrew Wozniewski were the odd men out for the Leafs.
1. A. Kovalev
2. S. Koivu
3. C. Higgins
1. Both streaks mentioned in the game preview were extended as Mike Ribero picked up an assist on Sheldon Souray’s goal extending his point streak to six game. And the Maple Leafs continued to struggle five on five, as they now have not scored an even strength goal in seventeen straight periods.
2. Habs rookies have embraced the NHL’s oldest rivalry as Higgins, Plekanec and Perezhogin have combined for seven goals and five assists in the Habs and Leafs seven meetings this season.
3. More then half of the Maple Leafs goals against the Canadiens this season have come via the power play.