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Kovalev's goals shrink Bruins' lead to 2-1

4/12/2004

MONTREAL (AP) -- Alexei Kovalev finally showed up in Montreal, just
in time to get the Canadiens back in the playoff hunt.

Kovalev scored two first-period goals, both assisted in part by goalie
Jose Theodore, as Montreal beat the Boston Bruins 3-2 Sunday
night.

Andrei Markov also scored for the Canadiens, who trail their
first-round playoff series 2-1 after scoring just once while losing
the first two games in Boston.

An enthusiastic, sellout Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 erupted in
cheers on both of Kovalev's goals, both of which gave Montreal a
lead.

"There was frustration at the end of the season because I
hadn't scored many goals, but the fans stayed behind me," Kovalev
said. "I wanted to show them the player I am and to come up big. I
knew that if I kept working on my game, that eventually it would
turn around. I knew I was getting close. I was getting more
comfortable."

Kovalev had just four points -- including an assist on Patrice Brisebois' goal in Friday's 2-1 overtime loss -- in his first 14 games with the Canadiens, who acquired him in a trade with the New York Rangers on March 2.

"You guys have been giving him a hard time since he got here,
but he's one of the most talented guys in the league and he can do
that any night," Bruins goalie Andrew Raycroft said.

Theodore set up the rushes that led to both goals and became
just the third goalie to record two assists in an NHL playoff game,
and the second -- following Edmonton's Grant Fuhr -- to do so in the
same period.

"When I moved the puck and made the right play, I was able to
beat one or two guys with the pass, and they did the rest,"
Theodore said. "It was just fun to hear my name like that for the
two assists."

Boston's Andy Hilbert scored in his first career playoff game in
the first period, and Brian Rolston drew the Bruins within one when
he scored early in the third.

Hilbert was in the lineup in place of center Michael Nylander,
who the team said had a flu. Nylander led Boston with two goals and
two assists in the first two games.

"When I went out there before the game, I had such chills and
goose bumps going up my spine, I didn't even know I had a helmet
on," Hilbert said. "It was really exciting to get my first game
in, but hopefully next time we can pull out a [win]."

Theodore, who allowed rookie Patrice Bergeron's goal 1:26 into
overtime Friday, made 21 saves. Raycroft, who had a shutout in his
first playoff game Wednesday, stopped 29 shots.

Electrified by a pregame slide show on the ice depicting their
storied franchise's 24 Stanley Cup-winning teams and Hall-of-Fame
legends Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur, the
Montreal fans were ready for a current player to step forward.

Kovalev was ready to be that player, with a little help from Theodore.

Trailing a rush initiated by Theodore and led by Canadiens
captain Saku Koivu, the Russian winger came through the slot and
took a backhand pass from Koivu before beating Raycroft from a
sharp angle 2:16 into the game.

"It was a must win for us," Koivu said. "The first game at
home and being down 2-0, obviously there's a chance of being too
emotional and getting away from the game plan. But I thought we
controlled our emotions pretty well and we were able to get the
first goal, and that kind of helped us at the beginning."

Despite playing just 31 seconds in the opening period, Hilbert
tied it at 6:34. He stopped Montreal defenseman Sheldon Souray's clearing attempt at the blue line and beat Theodore with a long wrist shot.

Theodore started another scoring play that led to Kovalev's second goal at 15:24. The goalie gave the puck to defenseman Craig Rivet, who shot along the right boards from behind Montreal's net.

Kovalev flipped the puck past defenseman Hal Gill at the
Canadiens' blue line and broke down the ice on a two-on-one with
Richard Zednik before beating Raycroft with a quick shot from the
faceoff circle into the top right corner.

Markov gave Montreal a two-goal lead when he scored on a four-on-four in the second period. Koivu got his second assist on the goal as Markov scored into an open left side off a rebound of Zednik's shot.

Rolston ensured a tight finish when he scored 3:35 into the
third period on a slap shot that struck Theodore's left skate and
beat him through the legs.

"They were a lot more desperate than we were tonight,"
Raycroft said. "We know we're still in the driver's seat and we
just have to come out and put forth the same effort we had in
Boston."

The Bruins got riled about an apparent injury to Montreal's Mike Ribeiro in the final minute. Ribeiro lay writhing on the ice after colliding with Boston's Mike Knuble yet remained on the bench for the end of the game.

"Obviously as you can see he got hurt really badly and I really
felt bad for him," Bruins right wing Martin Lapointe said
sarcastically. "The way he acted out there, I thought he needed a
stretcher."

Game notes
Fuhr was the first goalie to record two assists in the same period on April 22, 1991 against Los Angeles. Pittsburgh's Tom Barrasso also had two assists, against New Jersey on April 20, 1993. ... Hilbert managed three shifts in the first period despite his limited ice time. He played 6:03 overall. ... C Craig MacDonald also made his playoff debut for Boston. ... The Canadiens have never been swept in a best-of-seven first-round series.