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Habs top Oilers in shootout

Tuesday, 07.11.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
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Habs top Oilers in shootout
Latendresse notches first NHL goal, earns first star honors

Alex Kovalev scored the game-winning goal in the shootout against the Oilers Tuesday night.

MONTREAL (CP) - Guillaume Latendresse and Brad Winchester each scored their first NHL goals, but the Canadiens rookie got to celebrate his before an adoring home crowd.

Latendresse scored in the third period and Alex Kovalev got the game-winner in the fourth round of a shootout as Montreal defeated the Oilers 3-2 in a physical game on Tuesday night.

Winchester scored his first in 33 career games in the opening period for the Oilers, while Petr Sykora got one with 4:30 left in the third period to force overtime and a shootout.

"It's nice, but I wasn't putting too much pressure on myself to score," said 19-year-old Latendresse, the local favorite who got a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 21,273.

"It was more people around me that were talking about it."

Winchester, a 25-year-old fourth liner from Madison, Wisc., redirected a pass from Marty Reasoner between the pads of goaltender David Aebischer on Edmonton's 15th shot at 13:54 of the first period.

"It feels good," he said. "I'm trying to create chances for myself and my linemates and create some energy.

"It was a great pass from Marty."

Kovalev scored in the fourth round of the shootout after Saku Koivu and Ales Hemsky were the only scorers in the first three rounds. Jarret Stoll was stopped on Edmonton's final shot.

Craig Rivet scored in the second frame for Montreal (9-3-3), which was coming off a 2-1 loss to New Jersey. The Canadiens are 2-3 in shootouts, while it was a first for the Oilers this season.

The Oilers (7-6-1), who had lost four of their previous five games in regulation, play the second game of a five-game road trip Wednesday night in Detroit.

"It was a hard game and we had to pay a price to get a point," said Oilers coach Craig MacTavish, who had only praise for Winchester.

"He's been playing really well lately," he said. "He had a goal and a scrap.

"He's trying to make a case to play a lot more than he's played up to this point."

Guillaume Latendresse had a game-high five shots on goal and six hits against the Oilers Tuesday night.

Montreal looked to take control when Michael Ryder fed Koivu, who tried to jam to puck under Dwayne Roloson. The puck lay on the goal line for Latendresse to tip in.

The crowd rose in an ovation and chanted "Gui Gui," even if the goal was originally awarded to Koivu and only a moment later given to the popular 19-year-old Latendresse.

"I knew I had scored it, but I felt a bit stupid on the ice when announced it was Saku," said Latendresse. "I was happy when they made the correction."

The six-foot-two Ste-Catherine, Que., native, billed as a power forward of the future, made the team with an excellent training camp, but has struggled to adapt to NHL speed, going without a point in his first 13 NHL games.

He was promoted to the Koivu line when team scoring leader Christopher Higgins suffered a sprained ankle against the Devils.

"I felt comfortable playing with Saku and Ryder," he added. "They talked to me all night, giving me advice."

His goal looked to be the game-winner until Oilers veteran Ryan Smyth won a battle in the corner and fed Sykora for a high wrist shot from the right circle to tie it.

The audience included NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, fresh from general managers' meetings in Toronto where the main topic was inter-conference play and why teams like Montreal and Edmonton only play each other once per year, if at all.

They looked like bitter rivals as three fights broke out in the second period, with Mike Komisarek facing Winchester, Aaron Downey battling Jason Smith and Sheldon Souray fighting Matt Greene after the Oiler defenseman's knee-on-knee hit on Canadiens winger Mike Johnson.

Johnson was helped off the ice favoring his right knee, but returned for the third period. He suffered only a bruise.

The opening period was all Oilers, but Aebischer was solid until Winchester redirected Reasoner's pass in on a rush.

But then the Oilers got into penalty trouble and although they held Montreal to 0-for-nine, a Canadiens powerplay had just ended when Rivet put a wrist shot in under the crossbar 6:32 into the middle period.

Smith went down when he was struck on the side of the face by a Mark Streit point shot while killing a penalty in the third period, but wasn't cut and got a warm ovation as he got up and skated off.

Aebischer, a former Colorado Avalanche, is 9-3 in his career against Edmonton.

Notes - Montreal D Mathieu Dandenault, who missed a 10th game with a leg injury, is to resume skating this week and may return next week. . . C Chris Higgins will miss six weeks with a sprained ankle. . . F Patrick Thoreson and and D Daniel Tjarnqvist were healthy scratches for Edmonton.

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