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Koivu helps Habs keep pace in Eastern playoff race

MONTREAL (AP) -- Saku Koivu's breakaway goal prevented the
Montreal Canadiens' fans from seeing rookie sensation Alexander
Ovechkin go to work in a shootout.

They were just fine with that -- and so was goalie Cristobal
Huet.

"Of course with a minute remaining you're going to have to
start thinking about it but I'm lucky, I didn't face him," Huet
said after Koivu scored his first goal in more than two months to
give the Canadiens a 3-2 overtime victory over the Washington
Capitals on Thursday night.

Koivu, who extended his points streak to five games earlier in
the game, broke in alone on Olaf Kolzig and put a backhand past the
Washington goalie with 57.4 remaining in overtime to end his
23-game goal drought.

"I thought I had it jammed between my body and the glove,"
Kolzig said. "I didn't see it and I thought I was going to hold it
long enough for the whistle and then all of a sudden I saw it
trickle in. The puck didn't go my way on that play."

The Montreal captain hadn't found the back of the net since Jan.
28, when he scored twice -- including the overtime winner -- in a 4-3
victory in Toronto.

"I thought about shooting because the ice was really bad at
that point," Koivu said. "I was really tired at the end of my
shift and Kolzig's a very big goalie and covers a lot so I thought
about just making a quick move to the side and try to find some
open net. Lucky enough, it went into the net."

Ovechkin earned his 45th assist when Ben Clymer scored at 18:37
of the second to tie it at 1. Ovechkin ended a three-game goal
streak and remains two goals short of becoming only the fourth
rookie to ever score 50 goals in a season, and first since
Anaheim's Teemu Selanne set a rookie record of 76 with the Winnipeg
Jets in 1992-93.

"We played very well, but we had lots of penalties," Ovechkin
said.

Washington center Jeff Halpern scored a power-play goal with 2.5
seconds remaining in regulation to tie it after he was involved in
an odd play off a faceoff that led to Montreal taking a 2-1 earlier
in the third.

"At the time it was a great feeling, tying the score up,"
Halpern said. "It's always fun. It's a fun building, it's a fun
atmosphere and it gave us a chance to really silence the crowd, if
we had pulled it off in overtime or a shootout."

Montreal rookie Chris Higgins scored his second of the game 8:23
into the third, taking advantage of Kolzig's puckhandling mistake.

Higgins jumped on a loose puck to Kolzig's right and put it into
a wide open net just 3 seconds into Montreal's ninth power play of
the game when the Washington goalie mishandled a pass back to him
from Halpern off a faceoff in the Capitals' zone after Brian
Willsie was sent off for hooking at 8:20.

"I obviously felt horrible because our penalty killing was
doing a heck of a job tonight and Halpern did a great job in
winning the faceoff," Kolzig said. "I give the guys a lot of
credit for digging down and getting it back for me at the end of
the game."

Huet made 27 saves for Montreal, which remained tied with New
Jersey and Tampa Bay for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The
Canadiens have won five straight.

Ben Clymer scored his 15th late in the second for Washington,
which had won two in a row and claimed five of a possible six
points in its last three games (2-0-1).

Koivu assisted on Higgins' first goal of the game, which put the
Canadiens up 1-0 midway through the second.

Outshot 17-7 in the first, the Capitals battled hard, killing
five penalties in the first and three more in the second while
outshooting Montreal 10-7 in the period.

Higgins connected for the third straight game to open the
scoring at even strength 11:29 into the second. The Smithtown,
N.Y., native has scored five goals over that stretch and 19 this
season.

Game notes
Hall of Famer Mike Bossy became the first rookie to score
50 goals in 1977-78, finishing his first season with the New York
Islanders with 53 goals. Florida's Joe Nieuwendyk scored 51 as a
rookie with Calgary in 1987-88. ... The Canadiens have sold out
each of their 35 home games this season.