<
>

Montreal snaps Ottawa's point streak

2/24/2004

MONTREAL (AP) -- The Montreal Canadiens celebrated their latest
win as if they were already in the playoffs.

Steve Begin scored with 40.2 seconds remaining Tuesday night in the Canadiens' 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.

The Bell Centre sellout crowd of 21,273 erupted in cheers as the
Canadiens, who moved one point ahead of the New York Islanders for
seventh in the Eastern Conference, began a wild celebration of the
go-ahead goal.

"We are in the playoffs," said Canadiens defenseman Francis Bouillon, who was mobbed by defensive partner Patrice Brisebois. "For us, it's just like the playoffs. It's huge."

Michael Ryder scored his second power-play goal of the game
earlier in the period to tie it at 2-all. Montreal forechecked to keep
the puck in the Senators' zone late in the period. Begin tipped a
slow-moving puck past goalie Patrick Lalime for the go-ahead goal
after Bouillon's point shot struck and broke Senators defenseman
Karel Rachunek's stick.

"It was really an important goal and a big win for the team,"
Bouillon said. "We played well [Monday] in New York, and then this
was maybe one of our best games. We have to keep playing like that
until the end of the season."

Joe Juneau added an empty-net goal.

Jose Theodore's 17-save performance helped the Canadiens win for
the third time in four games since a season-high four-game losing
streak.

"It was just a big win, especially against Ottawa," Ryder
said. "They're at the top of the standings, and we're battling it
out at the bottom. I think beating the top team is very emotional,
and we had the emotion tonight. You could see it on that goal.
Everyone just got excited."

Mike Fisher scored his first goal of the season and Martin Havlat got his fifth goal in three games for Ottawa, which hadn't lost in regulation in nine games (6-0-1-2).

"They always work hard against us; we expected that before the
game started," Senators defenseman Chris Phillips said. "They
forechecked hard, and they didn't let up the entire game. They stuck
with it, and special teams were a big part tonight. We came up on
the short end, and usually when you do that, you don't win the
games."

Playing his third game since returning from his second long
injury stint of the season, Fisher beat Theodore with 19.6 seconds
remaining in the second period.

Havlat hit a goalpost and Senators newcomer Peter Bondra hit the
crossbar as Ottawa came close to expanding its lead early in the
third period.

Ryder scored in the first period and tied the score for the
second time with his second goal of the game -- his 18th of the
season -- 5:43 into the third.

Trailing 2-1 after Fisher's goal, Ryder put a shot through
Rachunek's legs and past Lalime for his third two-goal game of the
season.

Havlat, who scored his fourth career hat trick Sunday, got his
25th of the season 6:51 in.

With Canadiens captain Saku Koivu off for holding, Havlat took
Marian Hossa's pass in the right corner and banked a pass intended
for Bryan Smolinski off defenseman Stephane Quintal's skate past a
startled Theodore.

Ryder tied it just 50 seconds later when he put away Richard Zednik's rebound from the left edge of the crease.

Game notes
Fisher played his fifth game of the season. His only other point was an assist in a 3-3 tie in Pittsburgh on Dec. 26. ... The Senators recalled G Ray Emery from Binghamton of the AHL earlier in the day. Emery backed up Lalime with Martin Prusek listed as day-to-day with a strained left knee. ... Havlat has eight goals and seven assists in his last eight games. ... Ryder leads all NHL rookies with 29 assists and 47 points.