Game 75: Atop East, Habs own Bruins … again

Enthusiastic Canadiens fans greet Carey Price and his teammates for tonight’s game.
Steve Babineau, NHLI via Getty Images

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Ten games and counting. And how the Canadiens would dearly love to make it 11.

With plenty of CH-clad support in TD Banknorth Garden, the Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins 4-2 tonight to win their seventh straight game this season over their Beantown rivals. The streak is 10, counting three carried over from the 2006-07 NHL campaign, with a chance of stretching Saturday at the Bell Centre when the Northeast Division clubs meet again.

With the victory, the Canadiens vaulted a point ahead of the idle New Jersey Devils, who have two games in hand, to assume sole ownership of the Eastern Conference lead.

Sign tonight’s victory AK27, Alex Kovalev scoring two highlight-reel goals to pace the Canadiens, his second even more dazzling than his first, and adding an assist seemingly with eyes in the back of his head. And boldly initial it Carey Price; the Canadiens goalie made 34 saves, while his teammates managed 30 shots on Boston’s Tim Thomas.

The win might have been costly, though Canadiens fans won’t know that until at least Friday. Defenceman Mike Komisarek left the game after roughly six minutes of the first period, having played just four shifts totalling 2:45. The team surely will describe it as a lower-body injury, but early indications were that Komisarek’s lower back sent him to an early shower.

Kovalev this week launched a charity DVD featuring his wonderous puck control, and tonight showed the production was not trick photography. The Russian veteran executed the nicest spinarama since the days of Serge Savard to get the Canadiens on the scoreboard at 8:19 of the second period, turning Bruins captain Zdeno Chara inside out when he pirouetted in the faceoff circle from forehand to backhand for a shot that trickled through the grasp of Thomas.

It was Kovalev’s 32nd goal of the season.

If the way the puck hit the Boston net wasn’t a thing of beauty, Kovalev’s second of the night at 13:21 was very much so. From his own end, the gifted native of Togliatti weaved down the ice, dancing and stickhandling through the Bruins defence, which again included the mesmerized Chara, before shovelling the puck past Thomas – on another backhand – to give the Habs a 2-0 lead.

Chara, back in the Bruins lineup after missing five games, was robustly booed all night long in his own building, albeit by the many Canadiens fans in attendance.

Boston clawed back 27 seconds after Kovalev’s second goal with a blast from the blue line by Mark Stuart, a knot of players effectively screening Price as the puck glanced in off Montreal defenceman Josh Gorges.

Price was steady to brilliant as the Bruins fought to equalize, having outshot the Habs 25-19 through two periods, but it was Montreal that bagged the fourth goal of the game. Guillaume Latendresse feathered a nice behind-the-net bank-pass to captain Saku Koivu, who quickly fed Michael Ryder in front of the net for Ryder’s 14th of the season, scored at 6:47.

Andrei Kostitsyn would make it 4-1 at 11:13 with his 22nd of the year. Kovalev picked up the puck almost behind the Bruins net and without glancing out front whipped the puck to Thomas’s doorstep to a parked Kostitsyn, whose shot was partially saved by the Boston goalie before the netminder seemed to kick it into his own net.

Boston’s Dennis Wideman got his team within two at 16:55, capitalizing after what clearly appeared to be goaltending interference which spun Price around in a full circle and knocked him down, the the Canadiens goalie resisted late pressure to seal the victory.

The Habs were to return home immediately after the game and practice at noon-hour today for Saturday’s rematch, the eighth and final regular-season meeting between the teams this season.

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