Habs bounce Bruins for first home victory
Alex Kovalev had a big night with three assists, including setting up Alexander Perezhogin for the game-winner.
MONTREAL - Claude Julien wanted to see more out of his power-play and he got exactly that in the Canadiens' 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Bruins on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
After stressing the importance of creating more traffic around the net at practice, Julien saw his 22nd-ranked power-play erupt for three of the four goals on the night. Mike Ribeiro, Michael Ryder and Alexander Perezhogin each chipped in with power-play markers as Montreal went 3-for-7 with the man advantage.
"There were some great signs out there," noted Julien. "We got a few shots through tonight and we were able to get in there and get a hold of some loose pucks. Everyone worked hard and the results speak for themselves."
With the win the Canadiens not only picked up their first home-ice victory to improve to 5-2 on the season, they also escaped a dubious benchmark. The team avoided becoming the only the fourth squad in club history to go 0-3 at home to start the season, with the last such start dating all the way back to 1938-39.
Known more for his goal-scoring than his playmaking, Alex Kovalev continued to be the driving force behind the Canadiens offense. He added three more assists on Tuesday for a team-leading nine points in seven games, including eight helpers.
One of Kovalev's favorite targets continues to be Russian rookie Perezhogin, who picked up two more points, including the game-winner, giving the 22-year-old three goals and six points so far since filling in for an injured Richard Zednik on the Canadiens' top line.
"After a bit of a slow start tonight we really turned it on in the third period," said Kovalev, who was a major factor in the Canadiens' rally. "We started using our speed and that really wore down their defense towards the end of the game. The good thing is we found a way to win and that's a great thing about this team - we always find a way to win."
The re-tooled line of Mike Ribeiro, Michael Ryder and Tomas Plekanec showed some of the energy Claude Julien was hoping for, with Ribeiro picking up a goal and an assist and Ryder notching his fourth of the season.
"It was great to see both Ryder and Ribeiro get it going and each put one in tonight," said Julien. "We're talking about a couple of really talented players who just need a little confidence right now. I think we saw some really good things from them tonight."
As for the newly formed trio, Julien kept his cards close to his vest as to whether or Canadiens fans can expect to see the line become a nightly occurrence.
"That's one of the great things about our group this year, all the flexibility we have concerning our line combinations," said Julien. "We have a handful of guys who can step onto that line and contribute. We'll see where we'll go from here, but we definitely have a lot of options."
Although he was not terribly busy early on in the night, Jose Theodore made several game-saving stops with time winding down as he turned 20-of-23 shots aside, on his way to securing the Canadiens first home win of 2005-06.
Scoring goals for the Bruins on the night were P.J. Axelsson, Nick Boynton and Brian Leetch, who also added an assist giving the 37-year-old future Hall-of-Famer his 1,000th career point. Leetch becomes only the seventh defenseman in league history to reach the coveted plateau.
The Canadiens' homestand continues Saturday when they'll host the Islanders, before welcoming Peter Forsberg and the Flyers to the Bell Centre on Tuesday.
NOTES: Tuesday night's Expos Night drew a capacity crowd of 21,273 marking the Canadiens' 21st consecutive regular season sellout dating back to 2003-04... Montreal outshot the Bruins 38-23 on the night... The Canadiens went with seven defenseman, as LW Pierre Dagenais was a last-minute scratch. Joining him in the pressbox were LW Raitis Ivanans (eye), who missed his third straight game and RW Richard Zednik (groin), sidelined for a sixth consecutive game... D Mathieu Dandenault found himself doing a little double-duty on offense and defense on Tuesday night in light of Dagenais being scratched. Tonight marked Dandenault's first such assignment since joining the Habs...Dandenault, who was originally drafted as a right winger by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1994 draft, was an offensive star over his two-year stint with the QMJHL's Sherbrooke Faucons. In Dandenault's final season of junior hockey, he exploded for 37 goals and 107 points in only 67 games. A hunch by the Red Wings' Scotty Bowman saw Dandenault make the switch to the blueline as a rookie in 1995-96, given the star-studded cast up-front for the Red Wings.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com