Monday, October 31, 2005

Canadiens Pay Back Rangers

In the back end of a home-and-home, the Canadiens (8-3-1) earned a split by defeating the Rangers 4-1 at Madison Square Garden Monday night. Coming off a 5-2 loss Saturday, Montreal got better goaltending from Jose Theodore (23 saves), timely scoring and tighter defense.

With both Theodore and Henrik Lundqvist sharp the first two periods, all the scoring came in the third. Taking advantage of a Darius Kasparaitis high sticking double minor, Saku Koivu redirected a Craig Rivet point shot to give Montreal the lead 47 seconds in. Steve Begin added an assist.

After killing off a Marek Malik penalty, the Rangers tied the score with a power play goal of their own less than nine minutes later. With Niklas Sundstrom and Sheldon Souray in the box, Jaromir Jagr beat Theodore for his league-leading 12th goal, extending his point streak to 10 straight (10-5-15). Martin Straka and Dominic Moore tallied assists. For Moore, who logged the most ice-time (23:06) in the contest, it made it three points (2-1-3) in two games. All seven of his NHL points (3-4-7) have come against Montreal.

Unfortunately for New York, it only took the Habs 1:14 to regain the lead. Still on the power play, they gave up a shorthanded goal to Begin. Sundstrom forced Michael Nylander into a turnover, leading to a two-on-one with Begin. Begin beat Lundqvist top shelf, making it 2-1 with 9:06 left.

Any hopes of a comeback were dampened when ex-Ranger Alexei Kovalev scored for the second consecutive game. Unable to win many physical battles in the third, the Rangers lost one along the boards leading to Kovalev's insurance marker. Off a Koivu faceoff win, Jason Strudwick challenged Sheldon Souray to a fight. But Souray didn't oblige leading to a two-on-one down low with Koivu setting up Kovalev for his fourth of the season to make it 3-1 with 3:46 remaining.

With the outcome a foregone conclusion, Sundstrom added an empty net goal in the final minute. Begin added an assist for his third point of the night.

Notes: Martin Rucinsky suffered a sprained MCL Saturday night when he took a knee-on-knee hit from Rivet in the third. He will be lost for two-to-four weeks....Tom Poti sat out with the flu....Rangers (6-4-3) are at the Devils (6-5-0) Thursday for another home-and-home series that concludes at MSG Saturday afternoon.

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