Series (Game 4 of 4)

Montreal leads 2-1

Game 1: Tuesday, October 22nd
Game 2: Monday, November 18th
Game 3: Wednesday, November 20th
Game 4: Saturday, December 28th

Canadiens 2

(16-14-3, 39 pts)

Penguins 3

(15-14-4, 37 pts)

7:00 PM ET, December 28, 2002

Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

1 2 3 T
MTL 1 0 12
PIT 0 3 03

M. Straka (Penguins - LW): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

A. Kovalev (Penguins - RW): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

M. Bergevin (Penguins - D): Goals: 0, Assists: 1

Canadiens have goal waved off in loss

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Sometimes, the biggest plays in a hockey game aren't those that score goals, but those that prevent them.

Marc Bergevin made one of each to keep Pittsburgh's winning streak going, and there was no question which one was more important.

Martin Straka scored two of Pittsburgh's three goals during a second period in which an apparent Montreal goal was waved off, and the Penguins ran their winning streak to four with a 3-2 victory Saturday night.

Milan Kraft and Straka scored 1:17 apart early in the period as the Penguins rebounded from a 1-0 deficit and ended an eight-game winless streak against the Canadiens.

Montreal initially appeared to have closed within 3-2 when Richard Zednik steered the puck past Jean-Sebastien Aubin at 15:39 of the second, just as the net was being dislodged by Bergevin, a 19-year NHL defenseman.

Referees Stephen Walkom and Kevin Pollock could have awarded the goal or called Bergevin for delay of game. Instead, the play was reviewed by video replay judge Dale Ruth, who is allowed only to determine whether the net was off its moorings, not who dislodged it.

"It was an accident," Bergevin said, and not all that convincingly. "I slipped and I kind of pushed the net off."

That lost goal proved big when the Canadiens finally scored again late in the third period, with Craig Rivet sliding the puck between Aubin's pads with just over two minutes remaining.

"Obviously, it should have been a penalty (on Bergevin)," Rivet said. "Sometimes you get that call and sometimes you don't. But that's not the reason why we lost the game."

But it might have been the reason Pittsburgh won. No wonder owner-player Mario Lemieux felt fortunate to have caught the kind of break the Penguins never seemed to get during a recent 10-game losing streak.

"It was big," Lemieux said. "If it's a goal, it's 3-2 with a lot of time left. It was a good break for us. ... It's what we talked about (during the losing streak), we just needed to win a game and get some confidence and get some breaks."

Now, the Canadiens aren't getting them, and they've lost three straight to start a seven-game road trip.

"If they (disallow) the goal, I believe it should deserve a penalty," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "Nothing happened, it was a big impact on the game and it turned out to go against us. It was a tough loss."

Especially since it came against a team the Canadiens always seem to beat. Montreal was 7-0-1 against Pittsburgh the last two seasons, including two overtime victories and a tie this season.

Pittsburgh got a strong game from Aubin, who turned aside 20 shots for only his second career victory against Montreal and the first since his initial career start against them on Nov. 10, 1999. He also stopped a six-game losing streak that came during the Penguins' 10-game losing streak, their longest since 1983.

The Canadiens came out strong, taking a 1-0 lead on Chad Kilger's goal at 12:55 of the first, but missed a chance to take control by not converting on the game's first three power plays.

That allowed Kraft to tie it 45 seconds into the second period, redirecting Bergevin's shot past goalie Jeff Hackett, who started despite Jose Theodore's strong play in a 3-2 loss at Ottawa on Friday night. Hackett stopped 26 shots.

Straka put Pittsburgh ahead at 2:02 on a breakaway started by Alexei Kovalev, forcing Hackett to move to the left of the net before stuffing the puck into a big opening to the goalie's glove side.

"Everybody stayed positive during the (losing) streak, and now everything is clicking," Straka said.

Jan Hrdina later set up Straka's 10th goal of the season and second in just over 10 minutes, skating down the left wing boards before making a cross-ice pass that allowed Straka to easily beat Hackett.

Game notes
Pittsburgh has a 16-5 scoring edge since ending its losing streak. ... The Canadiens hold a 99-38-23 edge since Pittsburgh joined the league in 1967. ... The Penguins had lost three straight home games to Montreal. ... The teams went to overtime in four of their previous five meetings. ... Montreal didn't have more than 16 shots in its previous three games. The Canadiens had a franchise record low 12 shots Friday. ... Straka's goals were his first since Dec. 7. He missed four games with a hamstring injury, then was scoreless in his first two games back.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press