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Habs Notebook - Feb. 21, 2008

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Rydin' Dirty: After all of the difficulties that have plagued Michael Ryder this season, the Newfoundland native was a driving force behind the Canadiens' epic five-goal comeback. Ryder scored two second period markers in a five minute span and added an assist on Montreal's fourth tally.  Ryder also had three goals in his last two games and 11 goals and 11 assists in 51 games overall this season.

Happy, Lappy? Maxim Lapierre was nearly perfect in the faceoff circle against the Rangers on Tuesday night, winning seven-of-nine draws for a winning percentage of 78%. In fact, Lapierre's 50.1% is second on the team behind captain Saku Koivu's 52.3%. The Canadiens sophomore also finished the game with an impressive plus-3 rating, and looked right at home alongside Mark Streit and Michael Ryder. The trio shocked the Rangers less than 10 seconds after Kovalev scored his first of the game with a goal that pulled the Canadiens within one.

Familiar Face: This week has been a blast-from-the-past for Canadiens forward Alex Kovalev. After scoring his team-leading 28th and 29th goals of the season against the team that drafted him, the New York Rangers, Kovalev will suit up against the team that traded for him in 1998 when Montreal plays host to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night. Over the course of five seasons, Kovalev scored 149 and tallied 198 assists as a Penguin. Since joining the Habs in 2004, Kovalev has four goals and four assists in 10 games against the Penguins.

While many understandably believed that Sidney Crosby's injury would have a negative impact on the Pittsburgh Penguins' offense, someone should tell Evgeni Malkin about it. Since Crosby injured his ankle on January 18, Malkin has proven that he belongs among the NHL’s elite. Malkin's two assists in a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday catapulted him past fellow Russian Alexander Ovechkin to the top of the NHL scoring lead. Malkin has 79 points this season, with 34 goals and 45 helpers.

Begin the Beast: 
Even though the Habs were down five goals midway through the second period, Canadiens sparkplug Steve Begin played like it was Game 7 of a playoff series. The feisty checker led the Canadiens with eight hits against the Rangers to up his season total to 84.

Four Games and Counting: While the Habs’ shootout win against the Rangers marked the biggest comeback in franchise history, it was also the second time this season that Montreal has strung together four consecutive wins. The last time the Canadiens had a four-game winning streak, was in a late October when they beat Buffalo, Boston, Carolina and Pittsburgh, before losing to Atlanta in a 3-2 shootout. The Habs have added incentive to winning a season-high fifth straight game, as they currently sit in a tie with the Senators and Devils for top spot in the Eastern Conference with 75 points.

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