Game 66: Canadiens win to grab East lead

Updated at 10:18 p.m. with post-game audio

Canadiens’ Andrei Kostitsyn scores the game-winning goal on Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, the puck on his wraparound effort tucked just inside the post at left.
Allen McInnis, Gazette

Lineups | Preview | Game Summary | Event Summary | Boxscore | Game Story | Boone | Post-Game Audio: Price 1 | Price 2 | Koivu | Higgins | A. Kostitsyn | Carbonneau

This might be the way it’s going to be the last month of the NHL’s Cardiac Calendar – the Canadiens flirting with first place, playing for top spot one night, battling to stay abreast of the leaders the next.

And who would have believed that, on March 1, the Canadiens would be atop the Eastern Conference?

Andrei Kostitsyn scored his 20th goal of the year on a huge-effort wraparound at 14:17 of the third period to lift the Canadiens to a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

The win puts Montreal atop the East with 81 points, one more than both the Devils and the Ottawa Senators, winners this afternoon over the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s the first time the Canadiens have been in first place after the all-star break since March 1993 – coincidentally, or not, the last time the club won the Stanley Cup, the captain’s C worn that year by current head coach Guy Carbonneau.

The Habs rode a two-game winning streak into the game, having beaten Atlanta last Tuesday at home and the Sabres last night in Buffalo. Both of those victories were backstopped by goalie Carey Price, the team’s undisputed No. 1 in the wake of last Tuesday’s trade of Cristobal Huet to Washington.

And Price was very sharp tonight, making 31 saves. The Canadiens managed 25 on their nemesis, Martin Brodeur, at the other end of the ice.

Mark Streit got the Canadiens on the board with his second goal in as many nights, and his fourth point. Streit notched his 12th of the season on the power play at 6:11 of the second period when he swatted the puck out of the air on a centring pass by Alex Kovalev, deflected first by Saku Koivu.

Price is probably still looking for the one that beat him at 13:37 to tie it up. Devils’ Brian Gionta dug the puck out from where it lay between Price’s trapper and stick, the goalie looking for it the other way, then shovelled it into a yawning net to score his 18th.

Brodeur, a Montreal native, came into tonight’s game with a 9-1-0 record and a 1.99 goals-against average in his last 10 starts against his hometown team. He had won nine in a row vs. the Canadiens before the Jan. 24 loss.

Brodeur was 34-13-0 with five ties, a 1.75 GAA and eight shutouts in 52 starts against Montreal before tonight’s contest.

New Jersey had won nine straight against the Canadiens before Montreal scored three third-period goals in a 4-3 victory at New Jersey on Jan. 24. The Devils had won four in a row at the Bell Centre since a 3-2 loss on March 20, 2004.

The Canadiens now head west for a four-game swing, beginning Monday in San Jose against former Hab Craig Rivet and the Sharks.

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