In front of a raucous sellout crowd in the Bell Centre, the Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins, 2-0, Tuesday night in Montreal. Habs heart-and-soul captain Saku Koivu scored two spectacular goals for Montreal to account for all of the offense in the contest and rookie Canadiens netminder Jaroslav Halak earned the victory, his second shutout against the B's and third win against Boston this season.
B's goalie Hannu Toivonen, recalled yesterday from the P-Bruins, played an outstanding game in a losing cause, and finished with 28 saves.
"Maybe I could have done something else on the goals," said Toivonen after the game, characteristically taking responsibility for the score. "We've just got to take a look at (the tape) tomorrow and figure out what to do better."
With the home standing Canadiens fighting for their very playoff lives, and the Bruins playing for team pride and bragging rights, the first period was an exciting amalgam of spirited offensive play and tight defense.
"I thought (the team) stuck together very well," said Bruins head coach Dave Lewis. "We killed all those penalties, we worked hard, we generated chances and right now we are just sort of snake bitten in the scoring department."
Toivonen, who has toiled recently for Providence of the AHL, showed no rust in his first NHL contest since February 24th, and made seven difficult saves in the first 20-minutes of play. But rookie Bruins killer, CH netminder Jaroslav Halak, played brilliantly in the Montreal goal and turned away all 11 Black & Gold shots in the session.
Unfortunately for the B's, however, Koivu, who had been benched briefly by his head coach Guy Charbonneau in the Habs last game, also played spectacularly -- most notably when streaked into the B's end late in the stanza and put a nifty shot by Toivonen to score the only goal of the period, on the power play, at 16:46.
"The first one, he made a pretty nice move," said Toivonen.
But after the first Montreal goal, the second period, a scoreless affair, became the Toivonen show as the young Finnish goalie continued to take advantage of his latest opportunity with the big club to make some memorable stops, show some major league poise, and finish the middle period with 21 total saves.
The rest of the Bruins were clearly competing hard against their archrivals from Quebec, but prophetically, Halak only needed to make four saves to keep the B's off the board in the second session and the most exciting moments of the stanza occurred when Guillaume Latendresse squared off with Dennis Wideman to the delight of the partisan Montreal crowd.
That crowd went into overdrive when hometown hero Koivu, who played with an extra gear in his game all evening, provided the highlight of the third period, and the game, when he scored his second marker at 14:42 to put the contest away for his club and solidify the shutout for his rookie netminder, Halak (who finished with 29 saves).
"You know what, you have to come up big in those situations," said Toivonen, who clearly wished he could have stopped both Koivu scores, but who nonetheless played an outstanding game.
"I was really happy for him," said Lewis of his young puckstopper. "He played a real solid game. He looked good and had good composure.
"It looks like he found his game."
The win kept the Habs playoff hopes firmly within the grasp of the Bleu, Blank et Rouge as they prepared to take on the New York Rangers on Thursday. Meanwhile, Boston hopped a plane for Buffalo en route to their second to last contest of the year that same evening.
"I thought our guys played extremely hard," said Lewis. "They played with passion and they played with commitment. Just a couple of individual breakdowns cost us the hockey game."