Canadiens’ Michael Ryder takes exception to Blake Comeau’s hit-from-behind of Habs’ Christopher Higgins. The latter escaped injury on a scary-looking play, and both Ryder and Comeau drew minor penalties for this exchange.
André Ringuette, NHLI via Getty Images
The Canadiens’ Super Bowl weekend is off to a super start, thanks to their reinvigorated life at the Bell Centre.
Goals by Tomas Plekanec, Mark Streit, Alex Kovalev and Mathieu Dandenault lifted the Habs to a 4-1 victory this afternoon over the New York Islanders in the first of the Canadiens’ two weekend home-ice matinées.
Goalie Cristobal Huet, playing his 11th consecutive game, made 29 saves to earn his 19th victory of the season, tying his career-best for wins. He iced it with a daring rush to his blue line in the game’s final minute to foil an Islanders breakaway.
A tepid 6-7-4 at home in mid-December, the Habs are now a strong 5-1-1 at the Bell Centre in 2008. They’ll hope to make that 6-1-1 Sunday afternoon when the New York Rangers pay a 2 p.m. visit.
Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro made a huge difference early in today’s first period, foiling three Canadiens power plays and making a number of fine saves. The teams were even with nine shots each through the first 20 minutes; the Islanders blocked nine more to the Canadiens’ three, giving Montreal an edge in the play.
Forward Christopher Higgins avoided what could have been a serious injury at 16:40, driven head-first into the corner boards by New York’s Blake Comeau. The Islander and Habs’ Michael Ryder, who rallied to the fallen Higgins’s defence, drew minor penalties for the incident.
Montreal killed a frantic, minute-long 5-on-3 disadvantage in the late stages, both Tomas Plekanec and Mike Komisarek in the penalty box.
Plekanec got the Canadiens onto the scoresheet first, with Komisarek still off, 37 seconds into the second period. Alex Kovalev intercepted a blue-line pass by captain Bill Guerin to break out with Plekanec, craftily dropping the puck through his legs to his linemate who closed tighter and whipped a shot past DiPietro for his 17th goal of the season.
Comeau tied it up at 5:01, slipped a shot beneath Huet on a 2-on-1 pass from Miro Satan. Returning Canadiens defenceman Patrice Brisebois had given the puck away just inside the Islanders blue line, leaving Roman Hamrlik the sole defender back.
The Canadiens pulled back in front on the power play, Mark Streit scoring his eighth on a perfect through-the-defender’s-skates pass from Saku Koivu at 7:32. Trent Hunter was off for tripping Brisebois.
Then Kovalev bagged his 23rd on a New York turnover, lacing a shot through the skates of in-reverse Islanders defenceman Andy Sutton and DiPietro at 12:35.
The Islanders outshot Montreal 10-8 in the second period.
Mathieu Dandenault, returning to the lineup after having spent the past four games as a healthy scratch in the press box, finished off the scoring at 17:21 of the third on a pretty, patient pass from Streit.
Montreal outshot the Islanders 32-30.