The Rangers had their hands full with Alex Kovalev, who potted a pair of goals including the game-winner.
MONTREAL - The sight of a resurgent Alex Kovalev was nothing new to the Rangers who know all about what tricks the super-skilled Russian has up his sleeve.
With almost 500 games with the Rangers under his belt across two stints on Broadway, few players know the Rangers like Kovalev. Offensive outbursts versus his former team are also a common occurrence. With now 40 points in only 28 career games against the Rangers, Kovalev boasts more goals and points per game versus New York than any other team.
Jaromir Jagr also needs no introduction to Kovalev. The pair joined forces in Pittsburgh for three seasons before reuniting in the Big Apple in 2003-04.
"He's a very good player with a lot of skill," said Jagr. "With all that talent, he can hurt you, especially when he gets hot. Unfortunately for us, Kovy is playing really well right now."
No one had to tell Carbonneau who is carrying a hot stick in his lineup of late, with the rookie coach sending Kovalev out for 18:12 against the Rangers, the most ice-time of any Canadiens forward.
"Alex has often said it himself that he likes this time of year," said Carbonneau after seeing Kovalev notch the game-winner for the second straight game. "He's playing hard and he's making a difference. It's just his time and he's certainly proving that right now. He clearly wants to go the playoffs."
Kovalev has now scored a pair of goals in consecutive games for the first time since October 2002 when he was still with the Penguins. During that torrid stretch, Mario Lemieux assisted on all four goals.
This time around Saku Koivu is the one on the Kovalev gravy train with the Habs captain having assisted on three of the Russian's four goals in the past two games.
"The older you get, the tougher it is to find that spark during such a long season," explained Koivu after his four-assist night against New York. "Alex is sure feeling it right now. Once he gets on a roll, it's like no one can stop him. When he's playing like this, he can almost win games by himself."
Jagr and the Rangers can attest to that.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com