Canadiens topped by Islanders
The Canadiens dropped their first game of the season after carrying a lead into the third period.
MONTREAL (CP) - Montreal Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau wasn't all that upset his team blew a third period lead, because he didn't particularly feel that they deserved to be in that position to begin with.
Miroslav Satan and Trent Hunter had two goals each as the New York Islanders scored three times in the third period en route to a 4-2 win Saturday afternoon over the Montreal Canadiens.
It was the first time in 23 such occasions this season the Canadiens lost in regulation when leading at the second intermission.
"I didn't think we had a good second period," an irate Carbonneau said.
"We were soft, we didn't make good passes, we lost every battle one-on-one, we were lucky to be up 2-1. We talked after the second period about coming back and being a strong team in the third period, then we come out with this effort where we get outshot (11-9 in the third). Those are points that we need."
Rick DiPietro made 28 saves in goal for the Islanders (25-21-6), who improved to 4-0-2 in their last six games and closed to within eight points of the Canadiens in the Eastern Conference standings. "We're in the hard times of the season where you need to get points every game, and we have to continue to win or else teams are going to pass us by," DiPietro said. "We've got to play desperate hockey, we've got to play hard hockey, and we did that the last couple of games."
Radek Bonk and Mark Streit scored for the Canadiens (28-19-6), who have only six wins in their last 17 games.
The Canadiens' big scorers continued their collective slump as the third and fourth lines accounted for both of Montreal's goals. The first line of Saku Koivu, Christopher Higgins and Michael Ryder has combined for two goals and three assists in the last eight games, while Alexei Kovalev has a goal and an assist over the same span.
"You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don't work, you may get by from time to time, but not in the long run," Carbonneau said. "It's not just the first two lines, I think it's everybody. Not that it's a bad thing to think, but it's such a quick game and you have to live on instincts sometimes. I think right now we're just thinking too much."
Cristobal Huet made 23 saves for the Canadiens in losing his second straight start and his fourth in his last six.
Montreal plays again Sunday afternoon in the second leg of the traditional pair of matinee games on Super Bowl weekend, hosting Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in a re-match of Thursday's hotly contested 5-4 shootout win for the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
Carbonneau dismissed the notion that the Canadiens suffered a letdown after that emotional game.
"We're in a playoff race right now, we're not in October or November," he said. "We know every game is important, we knew the Islanders were coming here to beat us because they need the points to make the playoffs, and we know Pittsburgh's going to be the same thing (Sunday)."
Carbonneau said David Aebischer will start in goal for the third time in the last four games and he promised changes will be made to his lineup for the game.
"We had three extra players today, so we're going to play them," Carbonneau said, referring to defenseman Janne Niinimaa and wingers Aaron Downey and Garth Murray.
With the game tied 2-2 in the third, the Islanders scored twice in a span of 1:45 to take the lead.
Hunter scored to go-ahead goal at 11:26 of the third when he pounced on a failed Canadiens clearing attempt, wheeled and fired a slapper past Huet for his second of the game and 14th of the season. It was Hunter's ninth goal in his last 13 games and extended his point streak to six games.
"Sometimes you just go on one of those stretches where everything you shoot goes in," Hunter said. "But my linemates (Mike Sillinger and Andy Hilbert) have been a huge part of it. We've clicked really well and we're having fun out there."
Satan scored his second of the game and 17th of the year at 13:11, jumping on a Sheldon Souray turnover and firing a wrist shot past Huet to make it 4-2 Isles.
The Islanders opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game when Canadiens defenseman Craig Rivet got caught up ice to allow a three-on-one break, with Satan finishing a give-and-go with Radek Martinek at 1:44 of the first.
Montreal evened the score at 10:45 when Bonk scored on a wrist shot from the slot for his ninth of the year and his third in two games.
The Canadiens took a 2-1 lead after some good work by the fourth line deep in the Islanders zone, with Streit scoring his fifth on a nice deke between DiPietro's legs at 17:13 of the second period. Canadiens winger Alexander Perezhogin - a healthy scratch the previous two games - took a holding penalty late in the second and it was costly as Hunter tied the game 2-2 at 1:35 of the third, three seconds before the end of Perezhogin's penalty.
Notes: Canadiens C Tomas Plekanec was awarded the Molson Cup as the team's player of the month for January. Plekanec had a team-high seven goals and 12 points in 12 games last month..Montreal's record on Super Bowl weekend since 1990-91 dropped to 16-11-4. The Canadiens are now 6-7-3 on the Saturday and 10-4-1 on the Sunday..New York Islanders defenseman Radek Martinek left the game on a stretcher after suffering an apparent left ankle injury at 12:16 of the first period, falling awkwardly after taking a hit from Canadiens rookie Guillaume Latendresse. Islanders head coach Ted Nolan said he believed there was a fracture and that he expects the defenseman to miss four to six weeks.