Series (Game 5 of 5)

Montreal leads 3-1

Game 1: Thursday, October 4th
Game 2: Saturday, January 26th
Game 3: Tuesday, February 26th
Game 4: Sunday, April 7th
Game 5: Tuesday, April 9th

Senators 3

(38-26-7, 92 pts)

Canadiens 4

(36-29-3, 87 pts)

7:30 PM ET, April 9, 2002

Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

1 2 3 T
OTT 0 0 33
MTL 0 3 14

R. Zednik (Canadiens - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

M. Hossa (Senators - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

Big night starts with Koivu, ends with playoffs

MONTREAL (AP) -- The Montreal Canadiens welcomed back Saku Koivu and capped an already-emotional night by clinching a playoff berth.

Saku Koivu

Saku Koivu got his first taste of action in more than seven months.

Seven months after he was diagnosed with abdominal cancer, Koivu -- Montreal's captain -- resumed his playing career as the Canadiens scored three second-period goals and held on for a 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night to sew up their first playoff appearance in four years.

Koivu, who underwent aggressive chemotherapy treatments to combat the disease, was greeted with a standing ovation that lasted eight minutes from the time he stepped on the ice until the opening faceoff.

"It was overwhelming," Koivu said. "I really appreciated what happened there."

The crowd got plenty more to cheer about in the second period as Andreas Dackell and Craig Rivet scored 0:54 apart early in the period and Richard Zednik added his 22nd goal at 14:25 to put Montreal up 3-0.

Rivet bolted directly to the Canadiens' bench to hug Koivu after his slap shot got past Patrick Lalime at 4:52.

"It was a great feeling for me to see him so happy," said Rivet, who visited Koivu in his hospital room just moments after he got his shocking diagnosis last September.

Jani Hurme replaced Lalime in the Senators' goal to begin the third and Shawn McEachern scored 0:34 into the period to draw Ottawa to 3-1.

Yanic Perreault brought the crowd to its feet once again at 4:45 when he beat Hurme for his 27th goal to restore the Canadiens' three-goal lead.

"After we had the 4-1 lead, we thought we had it for sure, but they came right back at us," Perreault said.

Ottawa's Chris Neil made it 4-2 with his 10th goal at 7:07 and Marian Hossa cut the Canadiens' lead to one just 16 seconds later with his 30th of the season, an unassisted effort at 7:23.

Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore, the NHL's player of the week, had not allowed more than one goal in any of the first six games of the winning streak as Montreal clung tenaciously to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference down the stretch.

"We're really happy," Theodore said. "We didn't want to wait until the last game to see what's going to happen, so we're happy now that we're in. It's a big relief."

Koivu, who did not record any points in the game, was given his first standing ovation of the night when his arrival on the ice for warmups brought the 8,000 or so fans on hand out of their seats.

Four minutes before the Canadiens took the ice for the game, the crowd chanted "Saku! Saku! Saku!" The cheers grew as the video scoreboard showed the Canadiens preparing to leave their dressing room, and the sound of their applause rose to a crescendo as the last player -- Koivu -- took the ice.

Even members of the Senators looked on and tapped their sticks on the ice as Koivu took his first few turns around the ice.

Ottawa backup goalie Jani Hurme clapped his trapper and blocker together as he stood on the ice in front of the Senators' bench.

"It was emotional for everyone on the ice," said Ottawa forward Benoit Brunet, who began the season with Montreal. "I was happy he played. He looked pretty good, too."

The ovation soared once again as Koivu went over to hug goalie Jose Theodore in front of the Canadiens' net while his teammates made their way to the bench.

A sustained ovation that lasted nearly five minutes began when Koivu was introduced as a member of the Canadiens' starting lineup.

The crowd staved off public address announcer Michel Lacroix's first two attempts to introduce the Canadian national anthem, and continued cheering once it had begun.

A final ovation came as Koivu took his place at center ice for the opening faceoff.

Referee Dan Marouelli retreated to the edge of the circle and clapped his hands as he stood between Dackell and Ottawa left wing Benoit Brunet.

Koivu was named the game's first star, even though he failed to get shot on net while playing just 8:22 in 13 shifts.

"I wasn't the best player on the ice, but it felt good," Koivu said.

Game notes

Lalime stopped 11 of 14 shots. ... Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson fought with Montreal's Doug Gilmour with 0:22 remaining. ... Koivu had 17 goals and 30 assists in 54 games last season. He has 85 goals and 270 points in 345 career games.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press