Game 80: HABS CLINCH NORTHEAST DIVISION

Canadiens’ Alex Kovalev backhands his first-period, game-winning goal over Senators’ Martin Gerber.
Chris Wattie, Reuters

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Has it been awhile since the Canadiens last won a division championship? Not to put too fine a point on it, but 16 years ago, Carey Price and Guillaume Latendresse hadn’t yet started the first grade.

Not that anyone is counting tonight. The Canadiens’ two 20-year-olds have moved to the head of the class along with a very happy group of teammates, the Habs clinching the Northeast Division title with a 3-0 victory in Kanata over the very vulnerable Ottawa Senators.

Alex Kovalev, with his 35th of the year, Mathieu Dandenault, with his ninth, and Andrei Kostitsyn, with his 26th, scored Montreal’s goals. Goalie Carey Price earned his third shutout of the season, making 32 saves. His glove grab in the final seconds was one for the books.

With the victory, Montreal has guaranteed itself home-ice advantage for the quarterfinal round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, which will begin at the Bell Centre on April 9 or 10 against an opponent not yet known.

With captain Saku Koivu and defenceman Francis Bouillon sidelined with foot injuries – Koivu a fracture, Bouillon too tender – and rearguard Mike Komisarek healing a hip, the Canadiens still came up with a tremendous effort against the Senators to earn their 100th point of the season.

The Habs now can focus their last two games of the regular season, at home Thursday vs. Buffalo and Saturday vs. Toronto, on improving their place in the conference for playoff seeding. They’re tied atop the East with the Pittsburgh Penguins, though the Pens have one more victory.

Canadiens’ Christopher Higgins congratulates goalie Carey Price after tonight’s game.
Chris Wattie, Reuters


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