fein, fein...der VIERTE shutout von theo! im 12.!!!!!!!! spiel!
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MONTREAL – It was a night of firsts for several Canadiens on Saturday, and brought together as a whole, they equaled a satisfying measure of revenge for the team in its rematch with the Sabres.
Jan Bulis and Chad Kilger scored their first goals of the season and Jose Theodore notched his league-leading fourth shutout of the year, powering Montreal to a 3-0 victory over Buffalo at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens’ win closed out a home-and-home series with the Sabres and came on the heels of Friday’s 2-1 loss at Buffalo in which Claude Julien’s charges out-shot their hosts 37-17 en route to dominating everywhere but on the scoreboard. The victory also snapped a four-game home losing skid by Montreal (7-8-0-0) and broke a four-game undefeated run for the Sabres (7-7-1-0) away from HSBC Arena.
“If we had had a little more time, we could have at least gotten ourselves a point,” reflected Claude Julien on Friday’s seemingly unjust loss. “It was important for us to start [Saturday] the same way we finished [Friday], and not let those guys off the hook. That’s what we did.”
The game was arguably the most physical played by Montreal all season. Hard checks flew, tempers flared, punches were thrown, and when the spray of ice had settled, the Canadiens were at last rewarded in a contest where they were clearly deserving of two points.
“It was a huge game,” said Saku Koivu, who made his season debut at home after missing the first nine games at the Bell Centre with a strained knee. “After losing [Friday] night, we were three points behind Buffalo in the standings and we knew that we had to come up with the win.”
Though nerves were showing visible signs of wear on both sides of the ice, Montreal played an overall disciplined game as Buffalo’s composure degenerated. Of the game’s 57 penalty minutes, 39 were amassed by the Sabres. The Canadiens’ captain himself appeared to gleefully engage the opposition, at one point laying a ferocious hit on Miroslav Satan near center ice that drew one of countless scrums as the whistle blew.
“He’s full of [blank] and vinegar, isn’t he?” grinned Sheldon Souray. “Hey, he’s our captain – he’s the heart and soul of this team and I guess you don’t even realize how much you miss him until you get him back.”
Bulis shared in what appeared to be a renewed energy inspired by Koivu’s feisty return.
“It pumps the guys up to see your captain like that,” he said with a smile. “He even dropped the gloves, there. A couple of guys were joking that [Darren] Langdon’s lost his job.”
One night removed from battling and handling Eric Boulton, Langdon took on another of Buffalo’s big boys when he went toe-to toe with 6-foot-4, 247-pound Andrew Peters at the 12:35 mark of the third. After Langdon drew cheers for taking out his foe, Craig Rivet electrified the crowd less than 20 seconds later when he unleashed a flurry of rights on Adam Mair following a scrum in front of the Canadiens’ net.
Three roughing minors, four fighting majors and a game misconduct were among the penalties handed out in the game, offering further proof that the contest was Montreal’s most hard-nosed of the year to date.
“I think so,” opined Bulis. “It was great to see both fights, and I think we won both of them, right? It’s been a long time since we’ve seen something like that.”
Souray was impressed with the poise shown by his teammates in the face of the challenges that came their way.
“[Buffalo] just tried some bully tactics, and the thing I’d like to think most about our team tonight is that we stuck together and stood up for ourselves,” he said. “That’s the biggest positive we can take out of the game.”
“You can play any way you want, but you have to stand up for your yourself and your teammates, and you know, I think we played smart and didn’t do anything stupid to get away from our gameplan,” Koivu remarked. “In the third, guys showed that we care, that we play as a team, and that we stick up for one another.”
In what belied the physicality that followed, a penalty-free first period was highlighted by Bulis’ first goal since April 2 of last season. Patrice Brisebois ripped a shot from outside the faceoff circles that the centerman deflected past Mika Noronen, who was making his second straight start in place of regular netminder Martin Biron.
Bulis, caught beaming on the video board following the tally, confessed the goal wasn’t his finest work.
“It’s been a long a time, and I was getting frustrated,” he admitted. “It’s not fun when you get tons of chances every game and it doesn’t go in.”
“It was kind of a crappy goal,” he laughed, “but I’ll take it.”
Kilger extended Montreal’s lead to 2-0 just one second after a tripping penalty to Daniel Briere expired at 18:43 of the second. Theodore earned an assist on the play, stopping a shot before turning it around to Brisebois at the blue line. The defenseman earned his second point of the night (en route to his first first-star nomination of the year) when he found Kilger streaking up the wing; Kilger hit the breaks just inside the faceoff circle before beating Noronen for his first tally and first point since last March 25.
Souray added the coup-de-grace, scoring his team-leading sixth of the season with under six seconds to go. Souray’s marker came on the power play, which had resulted from Curtis Brown throwing his stick to prevent a Canadiens empty net goal at 18:12 of the frame.
Souray has now doubled his previous career-high of three goals in just his team’s 15th game of the year.
The Canadiens will spend Sunday skating with several thousand lucky fans in a promotion entitled, aptly enough, “Skate with the Canadiens”. They will return to their regular practice schedule on Monday and Tuesday before hosting Columbus on Tuesday evening. The game will feature the club’s second bobblehead giveaway of the year, whereby 5,000 Stephane Quintal figurines will be distributed via scratch tickets.
NOTES: The past three Canadiens victories have all come via the shutout… Souray led all skaters with a whopping 29:47 of ice time... In addition to Brisebois, both RW Niklas Sundstrom and C Mike Ribeiro finished the game at plus-2… Ribeiro’s assist on the Bulis goal marked his first point in eight games… Montreal earned its fifth victory of the year in games decided by three goals. It had four in all of 2002-2003… The team is now 7-1 when it scores first… The Canadiens avoided a blow early in the final frame, when a knee-on-knee check from Alexei Zhitnik sent Michael Ryder spiraling to the ice in a heap. After being helped to the dressing room unable to put any pressure on his left leg, Ryder returned mid-way through the period… Yanic Perreault and RW Andreas Dackell were both healthy scratches for the second straight night… The crowd of 21,273 gave the Canadiens their third sellout of the game… In earning the win, Montreal moved to 84-85-31-1 all-time against Buffalo.