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Seventh heaven

Tuesday, 04.04.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
Montreal Canadiens
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Seventh heaven
Canadiens roar back with three straight goals to keep pace with New Jersey for No. 6 spot


Saku Koivu reclaimed the Canadiens' scoring lead with two points against the Bruins.

MONTREAL - The sizzling Canadiens made it seven in a row with a 5-3 come-from-behind victory over the Bruins Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.

Despite trailing 3-2 early in the third period, the Canadiens (39-27-9) responded with three unanswered goals for their seventh straight victory. Montreal is now back in a sixth place tie with the Devils with 87 points, two points ahead of the eighth place Lightning.

Seeing his team claw back from a third period deficit came as no surprise to the game's first star.

"We're playing with so much confidence right now that we knew that if we kept pressing we would be able to come back," said Michael Ryder, who chipped in with a goal and an assist, including his team-leading 29th goal of the season. "We were having trouble scoring goals for a while there, but everything has come together since we scored those 11 goals in two games against the Leafs."

With just over five minutes remaining in the third period, Ryder helped set up linemate Chris Higgins for what proved to be the winning goal, as the 22-year-old rookie reached the 20-goal mark.

"It was great to see Chris score that goal. I mean I'm a veteran now, but I was there myself only two years ago," said Ryder, who along with fellow linemate Saku Koivu represents the last two Canadiens rookies to score 20 goals in a season. "Our line has been on a roll lately and hopefully we can keep it going into the playoffs."

Ryder, Koivu and Higgins each had a goal and an assist, with their line a combining for 28 points dating back to Montreal's pair of resounding victories over the Maple Leafs on March 23 and 25.

"There's no way I ever thought I would end up scoring 20 this year," admitted Higgins, who has exploded for 13 goals in 19 games since the Olympic break. "I'm really happy to have reached it, but a lot of the credit has to go to Saku and Michael. I'll tell you one thing, you guys wouldn't be talking to me right now if it wasn't for them."

In what has been a familiar refrain over the course of their seven-game winning streak, the Canadiens' second straight win over the Bruins was a group effort in every sense of the word. After being a healthy scratch for five of the last six games, Jan Bulis got the Canadiens on the board with his 18th goal of the season. Even Aaron Downey got in on the scoring with his third of the year to give Montreal a two-goal cushion late in the third.

"All four lines are contributing and making the most of their minutes," said head coach Bob Gainey. "Our group is maxing out with the time they're being allotted, taking what's there, and making an impact. Everyone deserves a piece of this win tonight."

It was bound to happen, but Cristobal Huet finally allowed a goal against the Bruins. After blanking Boston three straight times, Huet's shutout streak was snapped at 227:39 when Patrice Bergeron opened the scoring 19 seconds into the second period. Huet, the reigning NHL defensive player of the week, stopped 23-of-26 shots for his 18th win of the season.

Tim Thomas had his hands full, making 42 saves on a night that saw the Canadiens blast a season-high 47 shots. Bergeron led the way for the Bruins with two goals and an assist in a losing cause with Marco Sturm rounding out the scoring for Boston (28-35-13).
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The Canadiens' seventh ranked power-play went 3-for-10, while the Bruins were 2-for-4 with the man advantage.

The red-hot Canadiens will now head to Ottawa to take on the Eastern Conference leading Senators Thursday night at Scotiabank Place.

NOTES: Tuesday night's second consecutive showdown with the Bruins drew a capacity crowd of 21,273, marking the Canadiens' 37th consecutive sellout of the season and 60th straight overall packed house dating back to 2003-04... Niklas Sundstrom, Todd Simpson and Richard Zednik were healthy scratches, while Francis Bouillon sat out his ninth straight game with a left ankle injury... The last time the Canadiens won seven in a row was during their playoff push at the tail-end of the 2001-02 season, when Hart and Vezina Trophy winner-to-be Jose Theodore led Montreal to seven straight victories from March 28 through April 9, to help the Canadiens reach the postseason.

Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com