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Canadiens ride fast start to win

Saturday, 12.29.2007 / 12:25 AM / Roundup

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Guilaume Latendresse, Michael Ryder and Chris Higgins scored on the first three shots of the game and the Montreal Canadiens cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Friday night.
Three shots. Three goals. One win. Sometimes, hockey can be a very simple game.
   
The Montreal Canadiens made it look that way Friday night, beating Tomas Vokoun with their first three shots on the way to a 5-1 victory over the Florida Panthers before 19,838 fans, the largest crowd ever at BankAtlantic Center. Guillaume Latendresse, Michael Ryder and Chris Higgins scored in the first 5:03, sending Vokoun to the bench and putting the Panthers in a hole they could never climb out of.

Video 
   
The Panthers, who had been 5-0-1 against Montreal over the past two seasons, had lots of shots, but Cristobal Huet stopped 40 of them, allowing only a third-period goal to Olli Jokinen.
   
''We came out ready to play and took it to them, and that's so important in this league when you are on the road,'' said Huet. ''You want to establish yourself in the other team's building. It was definitely a luxury to get that advantage and to get them rattled a little.''
   
Latendresse put Montreal ahead just 1:42 into the game ( 700K ) when Roman Hamrlik dug the puck off the boards and sent a cross-ice pass to the right of the crease, where Latendresse swatted it behind Vokoun for his 11th goal of the season. Ryder connected at 4:50 on a feed from Higgins ( 700K ), and 13 seconds later, Higgins fired a slap shot from the left circle through Vokoun's legs ( 700K ), triggering cheers from the many Canadiens fans in the big crowd.
   
''It's not too often that something like that happens,'' Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said of his team’s fast start. ''We went on the attack and took advantage of some early lapses on their part. They have been a tough team against us, so to start fast like that was a big difference in the game.''
   
The shell-shocked Panthers didn’t get their first shot on goal until midway through the period.
   
''This is not figure skating,'' Vokoun said. ''You don't get points for looking good. It's about winning, and if you start a game the way we started it's tough to win.''
   
Craig Anderson played the last 14:57 of the period, but Vokoun returned for the second and was beaten at 9:55 when he failed to clear the puck. Mark Streit picked off the puck along the right boards and fed Tom Kostopoulos for an easy backhander ( 700K ).
   
Florida avoided its first shutout of the season when Jokinen flicked the puck over Huet's stick at 10:21 of the third period for his 20th of the season ( 700K ). Streit added a power-play goal at 16:57 ( 700K ).
   
The Panthers had won four of five and came in on a high after snapping a 10-0-1 streak in Atlanta at Philips Arena on Thursday.
   
''The first five minutes we weren't ready and they capitalized on our mistakes,'' Jokinen said.

''It's kind of funny when you start winning you start earning respect around the league and teams are going to be ready. We have to realize that. ... It's not like in the years before the lockout when teams were coming here for vacations and we'd surprise them and beat them.''
   
Hurricanes 4, Bruins 3 | Video
   
The Bruins’ early-season magic is vanishing. Carolina got a shorthanded, penalty-shot goal from Chad LaRose late in the second and a power-play tally from Eric Staal early in the third to hand Boston its fifth straight loss and sixth in seven games.
   
"What's frustrating to me is losing 4-3," goalie Tim Thomas said. "The guys gave a good effort and I wish I could have let in a couple less (goals) because we need wins."
   
With Carolina leading 2-1 but killing a penalty to Rod Brind’Amour, defenseman Dennis Wideman pulled down LaRose on a breakaway, setting up the penalty shot. LaRose went to the backhand and beat Thomas over the glove to make it 3-1 ( 700K ).
   
LaRose, who returned after missing three games with a concussion, was stopped on a penalty shot against Washington last month and said he learned from the experience.

“I looked at the one a month ago against (Olaf) Kolzig and I had him to the backhand, no problem, but I went to the forehand and tripped over his legs,” LaRose said. ‘I figured Thomas was far out and if I could beat him to the back post we would have a goal.”
   
After P.J. Axelsson cut the deficit to 3-2 just 51 seconds into the third period ( 700K ), Staal restored Carolina’s two-goal margin at 3:47 when he took Andrew Ladd’s slap pass, deked Thomas out of position and put the puck into a half-empty net ( 700K ).
   
Phil Kessel’s goal 11 seconds later reduced the Bruins’ deficit to one ( 700K ), but Boston was unable to pull even. The Bruins’ best chance came in the final minutes when Kessel hit the crossbar behind Cam Ward.
   
Carolina coach Peter Laviolette was pleased with his team’s effort.
   
“There really is only one way to win and that’s to play the game hard. We talked about that this morning,” Laviolette said. “Hard work is determining wins and losses. It’s almost that simple. I thought we worked hard tonight.” 
   
Rod Brind’Amour opened the scoring by beating Thomas with a wrist shot 5:56 into the game ( 700K ). Chuck Kobasew tied it with a shorthanded goal at 8:07 ( 700K ). Defenseman Mike Commodore’s slap shot from the right point sailed through a screen and beat Thomas at 10:51 to out Carolina ahead to stay ( 700K ).
   
The Bruins spent much of the night killing penalties. The Hurricanes had seven power plays, including one in the final two minutes of the game after a bench minor against Boston for too many men on the ice.
   
"I think the one thing that really hurt us tonight were the bad penalties we took," coach Claude Julien said. "I thought we battled hard throughout the night and got ourselves back in the game. "We did some good things and had lots of chances. But the type of penalties and the timing of penalties really hurt us.”
   
The Hurricanes’ injury list grew bigger when defenseman Bret Hedican sprained his knee in the second period and did not return. Laviolette said he could miss as much as two weeks.
   
Sharks 1, Blues 0 | Video
   
Sharks' goaltender Evgeni Nabokov made 26 saves to lead San Jose to a 1-0 win over the St. Louis Blues.  It was Nabokov's fifth shutout and NHL-best 20th victory. 
San Jose’s strange road-home split continues. Milan Michalek’s goal with 3:55 left in regulation ( 700K ) was the game’s only goal as the Sharks improved to 10-0-1 in their last 11 games away from HP Pavilion.
   
Michalek took advantage of a clearing pass that bounced off a skate behind the net and went straight to the slot. He beat Manny Legace with a one-timer from between the circles.
   
The rest of the night belonged to Evgeni Nabokov, who stopped 26 shots for his fifth shutout and NHL-best 20th victory. Nabokov has started all 37 of the Sharks’ games, the only goalie in the league who hasn’t had a night off.
   
“He’s our workhorse,” said center Joe Thornton. “As he goes, we goes. I don’t know if he’ll be healthy enough to play all 82 games, but I hope he does.”
   
Nabokov did some of his best work late in the second period, when St. Louis had a two-man advantage for 1:33 but couldn’t score.
   
“They have the best penalty-killing in the league,” Blues coach Andy Murray said. “They do a good job of it. We had good puck movement on the power play. We just didn’t finish.”
   
The Blues were shut out for the second straight game at home and have lost six of their last seven at Scottrade Center.
   
Legace made 17 saves, including one on Christian Ehrhoff’s penalty shot with 8:49 left in regulation ( 700K ). Legace stuffed Ehrhoff's backhander to keep the game scoreless.
   
“It was a solid performance, but not enough to get the win,” Murray said. “We did a lot of things right. We just didn’t finish.”
   
So why are the Sharks so successful away from HP Pavilion — where they are only 6-9-3, as opposed to 14-3-2 on the road?
   
“I don’t know,” Thornton said. “We have a good group of guys. Whatever it is (we’re doing), we won’t change.”

Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media were used in this report.
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