Saturday, March 1, 2008

Habs Trounce Sabres, Head Home To Face Devils

Carey Price won his second straight start since taking over as Montreal's top goalie, and Tomas Plekanec had three power-play goals for his first hat trick in the Canadiens' 6-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.

Plekanec added an assist, Mark Streit had a goal and two assists, and Alex Kovalev had four assists for Montreal. The Canadiens moved ahead of idle Ottawa into first place in the Northeast Division with their sixth win in eight games.

Montreal has scored 11 goals in its last two games since being shut out by Columbus last Saturday, and its top-ranked power-play unit roughed up the Sabres by going 3-for-3.

The Canadiens, one point behind Eastern Conference-leading New Jersey heading into their game with the Devils on Saturday, have now connected five times over the past two games with the man advantage to raise their power-play efficiency rating to over 25 percent.

A noteworthy moment occured in a fight, as Guillaume Latendresse dropped the mitts with Nolan Pratt and dropped him with a straight jab to the chops.

The Canadiens played one of the most complete games we've seen of them so far this season, dominating the Sabres in pretty much every aspect of the game.

The banged-up Sabres front line was helped by the return of wingers Drew Stafford and Maxim Afinogenov. Stafford returned after missing 10 games because of an ankle injury, while Afinogenov missed the past 26 games because of a groin tear.

Still, their offense struggled after scoring eight times in a win against Nashville on Wednesday. The defense struggled as well, as Ryan Miller allowed 6 goals and saved 27 shots.

The Devils, who lead the Habs for the Eastern lead by a single point, are reeling from a home-ice shutout to the Capitals and newly acquired goalie Cristobal Huet. New Jersey suffered its first regulation loss in 10 games Friday.

The Devils, who own a one-point lead over Pittsburgh in the Atlantic, have followed a five-game win streak with back-to-back losses (0-1-1). They hadn't lost in regulation since a 2-1 defeat to Anaheim on Feb. 8.

New Jersey has won four straight at Montreal since a 3-2 loss on March 20, 2004.

The Habs and Devils have 2 games played (both in Jersey) and 2 remaining (in Montreal) on the season series. The Devils shutout Montreal 4-0 on November 30th, but the Habs played a stellar game led by Bryan Smolinski's 2 goals to come back and defeat a sluggish Devils team 4-3 on Jan. 24th. Huet was between the pipes for that win.

Brodeur, a Montreal native, is 9-1-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average in his last 10 starts against his hometown team. He had won nine in a row versus the Canadiens before the Jan. 24 loss.

The Habs are 0-5 vs. Quebecois goalies this season, having been shutout on 3 separate occasions.

Puck drop goes at 7:08.

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