BOSTON - As the curtain closed on the Canadiens' six-game road trip, a round of applause was in order as Bob Gainey's troops earned a crucial 3-0 win over the Bruins Thursday night at TD Banknorth Garden.
With their 30th win of the season, Montreal (30-23-9) returns home having earned nine of a possible 12 points, going 4-1-1 on the now-completed road swing. The Canadiens now have 69 points in the bank, leaving them just one point back of the Lightning, who are currently in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. The loss pushes the Bruins (25-28-10) nine points behind Montreal, with one less game to play.
Alex Kovalev and Sheldon Souray scored and Tomas Plekanec added an empty-netter with 25 seconds left for Montreal, which won for the fourth time in six games. The Canadiens have beaten Boston four times in five tries this season, and Kovalev and Souray have combined for 11 points against the Bruins.
For a second straight outing Cristobal Huet held Boston at bay, notching his fourth shutout of the season. The 30-year-old goaltender extended his shutout streak against Mike Sullivan's squad to 147:36. Huet ended his night with 28 saves, including six shots from Bruins scoring leader Patrice Bergeron.
Tim Thomas made 38 saves for Boston, as it dropped its eighth decision over the last 10 games.
Kovalev opened the scoring with what would prove to be the game-winner in the first half of the second period. On one of eight Canadiens power-plays, the Russian winger beat Thomas with a perfect shot up high. The goal was Kovalev's seventh point in six games since the end of the Olympic break.
Souray made it 2-0 seven seconds after David Tanabe was sent off for holding early in the third. The 6-foot-4 blueliner ripped one past Thomas for his seventh of the season. Michael Ryder picked up his second assist on the night and now has five assists in his last four games.
Souray collected his second point of the night when he earned an assist on Tomas Plekanec's empty-netter. Plekanec was back in the lineup after missing Tuesday's game with a shoulder injury. The speedy Czech rookie was a dominant force on the ice all night long, leading all Canadiens with seven shots. Earlier in the game, the 23-year-old nearly snapped a nine-game goal drought when he broke in alone shorthanded on Thomas.
The Canadiens will now be back home for the first time in a month as they host the Rangers Saturday night at the Bell Centre. Prior to the game, the club will retire No. 5 in honor of Bernard "Boom-Boom" Geoffrion.
NOTES - Niklas Sundstrom, who had been scratched for the last six games, was back in the lineup against the Bruins. He replaced Aaron Downey, who joined Garth Murray and Mark Streit as healthy scratches...For the 19th time this season, the Canadiens scored at least twice on the power-play in one game, improving to 15-2-2 in those contests...It marked the first time since 1963-64 that Montreal has shut out Boston twice in one season...Chris Higgins saw his points streak snapped at five; he notched six goals and an assist in that stretch...
Heather Engel is the site assistant for canadiens.com. With files from the Associated Press.