MONTREAL - Despite battling a cold, Mike Ribeiro remained red-hot, scoring a pair of goals to lead the Canadiens to a 4-2 victory over the Stars Monday night at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens (21-16-6) improved to 2-0 since Bob Gainey took over behind the bench, while the Pacific Division leading Stars (30-13-2) saw their six-game winning streak come to an end, as the NHL's top road team suffered only their sixth loss of the season outside the Lone Star State.
Having just snapped a 16-game scoreless drought on Saturday against the Sharks, Ribeiro potted a pair of power-play goals to bring his total to 10 on the season. The Canadiens top point-getter of 2003-04 now has four points over his past two games after managing only one point over his eight previous appearances.
"The biggest difference for me has been playing shorter shifts," said Ribeiro, who enjoyed his third two-goal night of the season despite having his right wrist heavily taped after injuring himself in Saturday's win over San Jose. "I definitely had more energy out there and I felt sharper mentally even towards the end of the game.
"I felt really good even though I've been fighting a cold over the past few days," said a red-nosed and congested Ribeiro. "Maybe all I needed was to spend a relaxing afternoon at home with my kids like I did today."
The game meant a little something extra to Gainey, Guy Carbonneau and Doug Jarvis, who all spent time with the Stars organization, with Carbonneau being assistant GM in Dallas up until Saturday morning when he was hired by Gainey as associate coach and soon-to-be head coach.
"We faced a really strong team tonight and this was a good test for our group," said Gainey. "If you look at where we were on Friday as opposed to how we're feeling after these two wins, the confidence level has really gone up.
"Anytime you try to sell players on something like taking shorter shifts, they have to try it before buying in," explained Gainey, who saw no player in his lineup average more than :46 per shift. "Players aren't blessed with alarm clocks in their heads, it just takes a little getting used to."
After missing almost half the season with a nagging groin injury, a finally healthy Radek Bonk picked up two more assists to give the big centerman four points over his last two games.
Jan Bulis kept on rolling as he set up both Ribeiro goals to extend his point streak to seven games (3-8-11). Bulis' streak marks the longest by a Canadien since Richard Zednik had a seven-game streak of his own (6-6-12) from March 1-13, 2004.
The Canadiens power-play also continued to sizzle by going 3-for-7 after being a near perfect 4-for-5 on Saturday against the Sharks. The Canadiens had been an ice-cold 1-for-21 with the man advantage before facing San Jose in Gainey's debut behind the bench.
Alex Kovalev scored his first goal since the night he returned from knee surgery on Dec. 20. Kovalev played keep away with a handful of Stars would-be defenders before going five-hole on Marty Turco for the game-winner.
Michael Ryder also got in the action by notching his team-leading 19th goal of season on a play prepared by his new centerman Saku Koivu, who picked up his 300th career assist on the play.
Jose Theodore stopped 35-of-37 shots for his 16th win of the season as he won consecutive games for the first time since rattling off four in a row from Oct. 31 to Nov. 8. The only shots to slip past Theodore were a Bill Guerin pass that inadvertently ricocheted off the skate of Niklas Hagman and a Antti Miettinen shot that somehow squeezed through Theodore pads before trickling into the net. Theodore's counterpart Turco had a much tougher night as he turned aside 11-of-15 shots, while allowing four goals on 13 shots through two periods.
"Picking up these two wins before our big road trip is huge," said Theodore, who made 16 saves in a third period that saw the Stars outshoot the Canadiens 17-2. "Beating a top team like Dallas is going to really help our confidence and we'll need it because it's not going to get any easier on the road."
The Canadiens will now pack their bags for their most grueling road trip of season which will see Gainey's squad play six games over a 10-day span against teams all currently sitting in playoff spots.
NOTES: Fresh-off his first career four-point night, D Andrei Markov left the game in the third with a shoulder injury... The Canadiens were without RW Richard Zednik who suffered a thumb injury after being struck on the left hand by a Craig Rivet shot from the point in the second period against San Jose... C Tomas Plekanec (knee) missed his 12th straight game while D Mike Komisarek was the only healthy scratch of the night... D Sheldon Souray made his return to the lineup after sitting out Saturday with a sore knee... Saturday night's showdown with the Stars drew a capacity crowd of 21,273, marking the Canadiens' 22nd consecutive sellout of the season and 45th straight overall packed house dating back to 2003-04... D Francis Bouillon had a team-high six hits as he passed the century mark for hits this season with 105 on the year... The 15 shots fired by Montreal were below the team's previous season-low of 19.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com