ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) _ Stellar goaltending and timely goals got the Montreal Canadiens through the last two games. They're going to need more of the same to get through the playoffs _ especially if they don't improve defensively.
Saku Koivu, Richard Zednik and rookie Michael Ryder had a goal and an assist apiece, and the Canadiens strengthened their hold on a playoff berth with a 5-2 victory Monday night over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
``We have to be realistic and realize that we didn't play our best hockey of the year in these last two games,'' coach Claude Julien said. ``We had teams with their backs against the wall that came out hard at us, and we didn't respond that well.
``I thought our team got better as the game went on tonight, especially in the third period. But these are the kind of situations we're going to be facing from now till the end of the year. And if we're going to be in the playoffs, these are the kinds of games we're going to be playing. So we might as well realize it soon enough and start doing things to make us better.''
Jose Theodore, back in the nets after a 46-save outing by backup Mathieu Garon on Saturday night in Los Angeles, stopped 36 shots. Pierre Dagenais and Steve Begin also scored to help Montreal win for the eighth time in nine games. Patrice Brisebois and Michael Ribeiro had two assists each.
``I thought their goaltender was phenomenal,'' Anaheim coach Mike Babcock said. ``They could be scary in the playoffs if they get goaltending like that.''
The victory put the Canadiens within a point of the defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils for sixth place in the battle for one of the eight Eastern Conference playoff spots.
Montreal remains six points behind Ottawa in the four-team race for the Northeast Division title _ which would automatically give it one of the top three seeds in the conference playoffs. The Canadiens, who have won a record 23 Stanley Cups, haven't finished first in their division since 1991-92.
``We have to aim as high as we can,'' Theodore said. ``The team has been playing well, and now we're in the final stretch, so the points are really important. Lately we've been finding ways to win games, but we have to play tighter defensively if we're going to have success in the playoffs.''
Rob Niedermayer and Petr Sykora scored for Anaheim, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 19 saves in his 200th game with the Ducks. Leading scorer Sergei Fedorov was scratched because of the flu and Mike Leclerc missed his fifth straight game because of a sore left knee.
Zednik put Montreal ahead at 14:45 of the second period with his team-high 24th goal and fourth in three games. He broke into the Anaheim zone with a lead pass from Koivu and slipped the puck between Giguere's legs.
Dagenais added his 15th goal with 11:24 to play, converting a rebound of Ribeiro's wrist shot after Giguere had trouble controlling the bouncing puck.
Ryder, who leads all rookies with 53 points, tipped in a long wrist shot by Brisebois with 5:17 remaining for his 20th goal and a 4-1 lead while Vaclav Prospal was off for high-sticking.
The Canadiens were outshot 17-5 by Anaheim in the first period _ after allowing 18 shots in each of the last two periods of Saturday night's 4-2 victory against the Kings. Nierdermayer opened the scoring at the 4:53 mark, converting a rebound of Keith Carney's slap shot from the top of the left circle.
Koivu tied it at 17:34 of the first, streaking down the slot a step ahead of Niedermayer and redirecting Zednik's perfect cross-ice feed from the left boards for his 13th goal.
The Ducks didn't go on the power play until Darren Langdon was sent off for interference _ and hooking _ with 4:10 left in the second period. But the Ducks came up empty during the next four minutes and heard it from the crowd of 14,997 as they left the ice at intermission.
``We played hard,'' Joffrey Lupul said. ``Everybody was jumping, everybody was skating, but Theodore was great. As good as we played, our power play was terrible. Sergei wasn't here _ but even is we don't score, we've got to generate more chances.''
|Rob Niedermayer (11) ASST: Keith Carney (3), Petr Sykora (27)|
1 - 0 ANA
|Saku Koivu (13) ASST: Richard Zednik (21), Stephane Quintal (4)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Richard Zednik (24) ASST: Saku Koivu (37), Patrice Brisebois (23)|
2 - 1 MTL
|Pierre Dagenais (15) ASST: Mike Ribeiro (38), Michael Ryder (33)|
3 - 1 MTL
|PPG - Michael Ryder (20) ASST: Patrice Brisebois (24), Mike Ribeiro (39)|
4 - 1 MTL
|Petr Sykora (20) ASST: Samuel Pahlsson (12)|
4 - 2 MTL
|EN - Steve Begin (9) ASST: NONE|
5 - 2 MTL
|Garrett Burnett Fighting|
|Darren Langdon Fighting|
|Vitaly Vishnevski Holding|
|Darren Langdon Interference|
|Darren Langdon Hooking - Obstruction|
|Saku Koivu Holding|
|Vinny Prospal Hi-sticking|