Koivu's upbeat message not enough to lift Habs

Updated: April 30, 2006, 2:25 PM ET
Associated Press

MONTREAL -- Canadiens captain Saku Koivu delivered some good news to his teammates before they faced the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night. It just wasn't enough to inspire Montreal to a victory.

Montreal Canadiens

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Koivu, who was struck in the eye by an errant stick in Game 3 of the series Wednesday night, sent a message to his teammates that he was released from the hospital and would be watching the game at home.

He couldn't have liked what he saw as the Canadiens lost 3-2 and will head back to Carolina with the series tied 2-2. Game 5 of the best-of-seven matchup is Sunday.

"It was just a few words of encouragement," Canadiens defenseman Sheldon Souray said. "Obviously, with a player as important as him, and as well liked and respected in this room as him, just to know that he's feeling a little bit more upbeat gives a lift to the team. It was just nice that his spirits were a little higher than they were yesterday."

Koivu was sent to the hospital after the stick of Carolina forward Justin Williams struck him near the left eye. Doctors were waiting for swelling to go down before running tests to see if there was any damage to the eye.

"It's just a waiting game right now," Souray said.

Koivu's picture, taken in his hospital room, was splashed on the front page of a Montreal tabloid on Friday showing his left eye swollen shut with some stitches around it. The photo was taken using a flash camera despite the fact Koivu's room was darkened to give his eye some rest.

Several fans in the sellout crowd on Friday held up signs of encouragement for a player who has already overcome a bout with cancer and a series of injuries over the course of his 10-year NHL career.

Canadiens coach and general manager Bob Gainey spoke after the game about how his forwards did not work hard enough and were not effective in the Game 4 loss, but didn't use Koivu's absence as an excuse for their performance.

"I didn't see anyone looking and wondering if someone was going to show up out of the blue," Gainey said. "It's part of their lives. Players are in and players are out all through the season. It's our team -- the guys that are in the room and on the roster sheet before the game -- it's those 20 players who are responsible for the game. It's not the guys who aren't there."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press