Begin, Habs haunt Rangers
With a goal and an assist on the night, Saku Koivu had plenty to celebrate, as he moved into a tie with Alex Kovalev for the team lead in points with 12.
NEW YORK - Anyone expecting a nasty chest cold to slow down Steve Begin obviously hasn't been doing their homework on the Canadiens' sparkplug, who managed to almost single-handedly down the Rangers 4-1 at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.
Known more for his tenacious forechecking and shot-blocking than his scoring touch, Begin tallied the game-winner on his first career three-point night as he helped the Canadiens improve to 8-3-1, including a 5-0-1 mark on the road.
After a pair of scoreless periods, Begin's big night began when he helped set-up Saku Koivu's power-play goal that gave the Canadiens a 1-0 lead in the opening minute of the third period.
The Canadiens clung to that lead until Jaromir Jagr tied things up during a Rangers' 5-on-3 advantage. With the Rangers still on the power-play, and the announcement of the Jagr goal barely off the lips of the MSG announcer, Begin put Montreal ahead 2-1 only 14 seconds later. Begin and Andrei Markov broke in on a short-handed 2-on-1 that ended with the 27-year-old roofing a snapshot past Henrik Lundqvist for already his fourth goal of the season. Begin now co-leads the NHL with two short-handed goals along with Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson. He then capped off his night with an assist on Niklas Sundstrom's empty-net goal with only 37 seconds left to play.
Less than 48 hours after he was pulled in Montreal's 5-2 loss the Rangers , Jose Theodore roared back by turning away 23-of-24 shots for his seventh victory of the year, as the Canadiens won their eighth game in the month of October for the first time since 1991-92.
Alex Kovalev, who doesn't have to wear a Halloween costume to frighten fans at MSG, continued to burn his former team by putting the Canadiens up 3-1 with less than four minutes left in regulation with his fourth goal of the campaign. Kovalev now has a career-best 36 points and 14 goals in only 24 games against the Rangers.
Fellow former Ranger Niklas Sundstrom, who returned to the lineup after missing four games with a groin injury, picked up two points, assisting on Begin's game-winner and potting the empty-netter. The goal was Sundstrom's first against the Rangers in 13 career games.
The Canadiens immediately headed back to Montreal in advance of their date with Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
NOTES : C Radek Bonk, who played in his 700th NHL game on Saturday, was not in the lineup due to a groin injury...The scariest moment on Halloween night at MSG came halfway through the second period when Canadiens assistant coach Rick Green was almost decapitated by a Marek Malik shot. Green, who spent seven seasons on the Montreal blueline, didn't miss a beat and remained at his post sporting a scar under his swollen right eye... The Canadiens outshot the Rangers 31-24... Montreal was 1-for-9 on the power-play, while New York went 1-for-6... Koivu's power-play goal was the Canadiens' first in 13 opportunities dating back to Thursday's loss in Ottawa...
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com