Kovalev got his second straight two-goal game as Montreal scored five unanswered goals in the second period in the Canadiens' 6-4 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.
Alexei Kovalev, who had two goals in Montreal's win, had not scored more than one goal in a game this season until Saturday when he had a pair of goals against Washington. It's the first time that Kovalev has had consecutive multiple-goal games since October 2002, when he did it for Pittsburgh.
Kovalev scored a pair of power-play goals to key the outburst that drove Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist from the net -- to the delight of the sold-out Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 -- midway through the second period after he allowed four goals within 7:30.
"I think Alex said it, he likes this time of the year," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said.
The Canadiens moved into a tie with Tampa Bay for seventh in the Eastern Conference with 86 points.
"These games right now mean a lot," Koivu said. "For us, it's a must-win pretty much to the end and being down 2-0 after the first and being able to get those goals, it obviously makes it bigger and it's something that you can get the confidence going and hopefully get it going from here on."
"I was looking forward to this game, to play against the Rangers because the first game I lost was against them," said Halak, a 21-year-old Slovak who has won eight of 12 starts since he was called up from AHL Hamilton on Feb. 15.
Michael Nylander and Paul Mara scored in the first for the Rangers, who remain one point ahead of Montreal in sixth place in the East with 87 points.
"I think we take it as a bit of a break that all the teams that are competing with us lost tonight," said Brendan Shanahan, who assisted on Nylander's five-on-three goal that opened the scoring 11:55 in. "Certainly the work we've done in the last month has pushed us to a position where we're still in the driver's seat. We just have to go out in our next game and correct a lot of the things that we did wrong tonight and get a win."
Kovalev, who had his first two-goal game of the season in Saturday's 4-1 win over Washington, started the Canadiens' comeback with his 17th goal on Montreal's first power play 2:17 into the second.
Begin evened it at 2 just 32 seconds later with a shot between Lundqvist's pads on a two-on-one at 2:49.
"He gave me the glove side and I was wide open, top shelf, but I knew he wanted me to shoot there so I saw the five-hole open and I shot there and it went in," Begin said.
Rangers coach Tom Renney used his timeout immediately following Begin's goal, though to little avail, as Ryder put the Canadiens up 3-2 at 4:36 with his team-leading 26th goal.
Plekanec got his 20th goal at 9:47 as he backhanded his own rebound past Lundqvist, who was named the league's first star of the week and hadn't allowed four goals in a game since Feb. 5.
Renney pulled him nonetheless, and Stephen Valiquette took over for his first appearance in 12 games.
"I probably should have done it one goal sooner, as a matter of fact," Renney said. "I'm happy that I did it. Henrik's been just a stalwart for us and he wanted to get the heck out of there and take his pads off and rest a bit. It's a tough decision whenever you do that to a goaltender but he's so valuable to us and his teammates know that and they're not happy with what they did in front of him. We're playing under these circumstances due in large part to him so he knows that and the rest of us do as well."
Kovalev scored his second power-play goal of the period -- his 18th goal of the season -- at 14:09.
Stock car legend Richard Petty took in the game from a rinkside seat. ... Lundqvist allowed four goals on 15 shots. ... Valiquette stopped 8-of-10 shots in his third appearance of the season, his first since he stopped 25 shots in a 3-2 shootout win over St. Louis on March 3. ... There were six players in the penalty boxes at one point late in the second period, including four Rangers. ... It was the Canadiens' 98th consecutive regular-season sellout.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: Bell Centre Location: Montreal, Quebec
Referees: Stephane Auger, Paul Devorski Linesmen: Pierre Champoux, Michel Cormier
Attendance: 21,273 (100.0% full)
Team Stat Comparison
Power Play Goals
Power Play Opportunities
Shots on Goal
Michael Nylander (24)
(Power Play) Assists: Brendan Shanahan, Michal Rozsival
Paul Mara (5)
Alex Kovalev (17)
(Power Play) Assist: Saku Koivu
Steve Begin (5)
Assist: Radek Bonk
Michael Ryder (26)
Assists: Saku Koivu, Mark Streit
Tomas Plekanec (20)
Assists: Andrei Kostitsyn, Mike Komisarek
Alex Kovalev (18)
(Power Play) Assists: Saku Koivu, Andrei Markov
Thomas Pock (3)
Assists: Brendan Shanahan, Martin Straka
Matt Cullen (16)
Assist: Marek Malik
Mark Streit (9)
Assists: Saku Koivu, Andrei Markov