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September 24, 2005
MONTREAL (CP) -- Even in a losing cause, new Toronto Maple Leaf Jason Allison said it felt good to be back in an NHL hockey game.
The veteran centre and scoring star played his first game in more than two years on Saturday night as the Montreal Canadiens defeated Toronto 3-2 in a stop-and-start game in which 22 minor penalties were called.
Allison, who signed as a free agent on Aug. 5, has been recovering from concussions since the 2002-03 season when he was with the Los Angeles Kings.
"I'm just happy to get out there and play in a competitive game like that," said Allison. "My game will come.
"You have ups and down. You have to build on every game. It's my first game in two and a half years. . . A lot of guys missed last year. I don't see it as a big issue. I think the new rules are a bigger issue than how long I've been out."
Centre Tomas Plekanec, who is making a strong bid to crack the Canadiens' line-up, scored the game-winning goal at 19:02 of the second period.
Sheldon Souray and Richard Zednik also scored for Montreal, while Tomas Kaberle and Alexei Ponikarovsky replied for the Leafs, who were outshot 38-22 and needed superb goaltending from prospect Jean-Francois Racine in the second half of the game to keep it close.
Allison assisted on Ponikarovsky's goal and his 18:18 of playing time was more than coach Pat Quinn planned for in his debut match.
"He played pretty decent really considering all the penalty time we had,' Quinn said of Allison. "We lost a forward who was going to be one of our penalty killers and so we threw Jason in.
"We weren't planning on that. He seemed to do well. He got lots of ice time _ maybe more than what we planned on."
Eight minutes into the game, Kaberle's point shot struck Jeff O'Neill in the back of the helmet, forcing the winger to leave the game with a bruised neck.
O'Neill said his injury did not appear to be serious.
"Yeah, it's pretty scary but it's part of the game," he said. "You get injured some times.
"Luckily, this one's not too serious. Hopefully, I'll be back on the ice in a couple of days. It's just a bruise behind my helmet. Our trainers got on it quickly. I just have to ice it now and let the swelling go down a bit."
The victory gave the Canadiens a split of a two-game series with the Leafs, who beat Montreal 4-3 in Toronto on Thursday. Montreal improved to 3-1 while Toronto is 2-2.
Plekanec, who has five points in three pre-season games, tipped a point shot past Racine on a power play at 19:02 of the second period to break a 2-2 tie.
"We knew he was competitive," said coach Claude Julien. "The way he's playing is no surprise."
Both coaches were disturbed by the parade to the penalty box as Toronto was hit with 12 minors and Montreal with 10 under the league's crackdown on restraining fouls. All the goals were scored on the power play.
"Tonight was certainly frustrating," said Quinn. "We played three games where we were pretty good, but tonight there were a lot of let's say different calls.
"This is the part of training camp you're supposed to get some 5-on-5 hockey so you can make good decisions, but after something like this, it's hard to do."
Julien said he'd like to see his team take fewer penalties.
"I'm not blaming the refs -- they call what they have to call -- but the refs will adjust too," he said. "When it's 5-on-5, it's exciting hockey and with all the penalties, you lose momentum.
"The main thing for us is to adapt and take less penalties."
Julien had planned to make a round of cuts on Sunday, but decided to give the players the day off and cut the roster, perhaps to 28 players, on Monday.
Ed Belfour started in goal for Toronto and allowed two goals on 17 shots before he was replaced by Racine. Jose Theodore went all the way in net for Montreal.
The crowd of 19,608 continued its tradition of booing new Leaf Eric Lindros each time he touched the puck.
Souray opened the scoring on a two-man advantage 2:41 into the match on a blast from the high slot and Kaberle tied it just after a two-man advantage ended at 18:35 on a point shot.
Theodore was slow to cover the near post as Ponikarovsky put the leafs ahead 4:34 into the second frame on a one-time shot from the right side.
Zednik got to a loose puck in front and slid it under Belfour to tie the score at 9:34.
Tough guy Tie Domi, of all people, was off for diving when Plekanec scored.
Montreal sat out veterans Craig Rivet, Andrei Markov, Jan Bulis and Mike Ribeiro while Toronto rested Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe, Bryan Marchment and Matt Stajan.
Montreal won the post-game demonstration shootout 1-0 on a goal by Alex Kovalev.