F. no more

Just Martin Brodeur.

What the heck, Canadiens have beaten him three times in a row – the latest in a battle for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Brodeur is still great. And there’s plenty of F. hockey left in him.

But the curse, it would seem, is lifted. 

And the guys who did the heavy lifting for Canadiens were a 20-year-old goaltender and a seventh-round draft choice who turns 21 later this month.

With his cap on backwards, cradling a bottle of water behind his back and looking a it like  Belarussian deer caught in Montreal headlights, Sergei Kostitsyn murmured assent to the idea that he had scaled new heights in this crucial contest.

"Yes, I think was best game for me so far," said the kid brother of the first-round draft choice. Sergei K. had set up Saku Koivu and Maxim Lapierre for goals that Grandma Kostitsyn could have scored.

"We beat a great team and we’re in first place," added Kostitsyn, who deferred some of the questions to Genady Boguslavsky, the Russian journalist who does yeoman duty on after-game translation in Moscow-sur-St.-Laurent. 

 "We wanted to show we were serious," said Lapierre, who was merrily hitting Devils in the game’s dying minutes. "There are 11 games until the playoffs and we want to show we’re ready."

Canadiens looked ready for the postseason – particularly during the third period. They outshot New Jersey 15-5, forechecking the Devils into the Bell Centre ice and giving them no chance to mount a comeback, particularly affter Michael Ryder, who played hhis heart out tonight, poked the fourth goal past a suddenly-human Brodeur.

Carey Price, who had made 33 saves through the first two periods, was able to cruise down the stretch and notch the second shutout of what is becoming a dream season for a goalie who was in the Western Hockey League a year ago. 

In the post-game celebratory scrum, Christopher Higgins urged Price to smile and enjoy the moment.

"I don’t usually get very emotional," the stoic star said later. "I was excited on the inside."

There was delirium inside he Bell Centtre as the seconds ticked down. This "CA-REY! CA-REY! CA-REY" cheer could catch on.

Asked if he derived any special satisfaction from beating Brodeur, Price got off a good line.

"Well, he’s not shooting on me," Price said. "But it was definitely special to get a shutout. I’m just thankful to get the two points."



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