Updated on Sunday with links to Red Fisher’s game story. Updated with dressing-room audio
On Friday, Canadiens captain Saku Koivu was discussing his personal drought, not having scored since Nov. 17 – coincidentally, the last time his team had won at home.
“I’ve been in this situation before and I’m hoping there’s a solution,” Koivu said philosophically. “Hopefully (tonight) we can talk about my goal.”
As he wishes, then.
Koivu scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season, with Andrei Kostitsyn and Alex Kovalev scoring singles, to pace the Canadiens to a strong, start-to-finish 4-1 victory over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
Habs goaltender Carey Price made 28 saves, losing the bid for his first NHL shutout with 4:06 to play. It was the 20-year-old’s third consecutive victory over Toronto this season.
The Canadiens, 16-11-5, put an end to a six-game Bell Centre winless streak, one that was a single game from tying the club record set seven years ago. The Leafs, 4-0 winners in Atlanta last night, couldn’t solve the Canadiens at either end of the ice, losing for just the fourth time in their last 11 games.
Koivu put the Canadiens on the scoresheet at 9:03 of the first period on the Habs’ fourth shot, whipping a backhand from 20 feet beside Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala’s crease into a maze in front that wound up in the Toronto goal off Leaf defenceman Hal Gill’s skate. Koivu’s sixth goal of the season gave Sergei Kostitsyn an assist, his first career NHL point, with another helper going to Christopher Higgins.
Drought? What drought? Koivu scored his second of the night at 3:09 of the second period, and there was nothing fluky about this one. Higgins snapped in a gorgeous pass from behind the Toronto faceoff circle, and Koivu, having slipped in behind the Toronto defence, cradled the puck then deked around Toskala, sliding the puck in. Defenceman Francis Bouillon also picked up an assist.
The Canadiens went up 3-0 at 10:17 on a hit-me deflection off the body of Andrei Kostitsyn. The play was started by Kovalev, who showed great puck sense in waiting to find the avenue for a pass from near the boards back to Mike Komisarek. The defenceman’s wrist shot from just inside the blue line banked in off Kostitsyn for the Russian’s sixth goal of the season.
Kovalev then scored the Canadiens’ fourth and his 14th of the year, having his rebound bounce past Toskala off defenceman Tomas Kaberle’s skate at 8:32 of the third.
The Leafs’ Boyd Devereaux spoiled the party, at least a little, his knuckleball seeming to deflect off defenceman Roman Hamrlik’s stick and past Price at 15:54. Listen to how Price describes it.
Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe left the game with a broken left wrist in the third period after an awkward hit into the boards from Andrei Kostitsyn. The wrist, which is broken in three places, will force McCabe to miss the next six to eight weeks, according to team officials.
In five games against Toronto this season, the Canadiens have won in regulation, overtime and a shootout, the Leafs winning in regulation and overtime.
Montreal is home to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday before setting off on a holiday-spanning six-game road trip.