March 25, 2006MONTREAL (CP)
-- Radek Bonk and Michael Ryder each scored twice as the Canadiens defeated the Maple Leafs 6-2 on Saturday night to complete a two-game sweep of their NHL Northeast Division rivals.
The Canadiens had won the first match of the two-game set at the Bell Centre 5-1 on Thursday night.
"We're a solid team when we play together as a team,'' said Montreal defenceman Craig Rivet. "These were probably two of the best games we've played as a team this year.
| photo courtesy montrealcanadiens.com |
"It's a positive sign with 12 games left in the season and we just have to continue doing what makes us successful.''
The Canadiens moved one point ahead of Atlanta into the eighth and final Eastern conference playoff spot with a game in hand on the Thrashers, who lost 5-1 to the New York Islanders.
The 32-32-6 Leafs' playoff hopes faded as they dropped to seven points behind 34-27-9 Montreal, each with 12 games left to play.
"We're still alive,'' said captain Mats Sundin, who had both Toronto goals. "We can bounce back.
"It's no time for feeling sorry for ourselves, but we're making too many mistakes - the kind playoff teams don't make.''
Andrei Markov and Garth Murray also scored. Markov also had three assists.
The players had no time celebrate or lick wounds, as both play Sunday night - the Leafs in New Jersey and Montreal in Pittsburgh, which has won all three of its meetings with the Canadiens so far this season.
"If we motivate ourselves the way we did in these two games, we'll be an unstoppable team for the rest of the season,'' said Montreal winger Alex Kovalev.
Kovalev was ejected from the game with an elbowing major with 2:05 left to play when, after ducking an attempted elbow from Darcy Tucker, he charged elbow-first into the pesky Leafs forward. The two then fought, with Tucker taking an instigator penalty.
Tucker is unlikely to be suspended, but the league may look at Kovalev's case.
"If they let go (Tucker's) shot, I thought I could do the same thing,'' said Kovalev. "I'm not going to let that go.''
"I could have hit him and I didn't,'' said Tucker.
It was the last of three melees that broke out in the third period as the Leafs' frustration boiled over.
It had been two key games in the heat of the playoff battle between the NHL's oldest rivals and fans from both teams had kept the noise level on full for both games.
But while the Leafs, who also lost both in a two-game set in Ottawa in January, were listless in Thursday's opener, they came out strong in the second game, only to have their enthusiasm sapped by a pair of weak goals allowed the low-scoring Bonk by Mikael Tellqvist.
Toronto came out forechecking hard and got the first goal on a power play 2:47 into the game when Sundin drilled in a pass from Jason Allison from the slot.
Ryder got it back during a two-man advantage at 8:38, but the Leafs still controlled the play until Tellqvist let in Bonk's medium-speed shot at 14:56. Tellqvist then let Steve Begin's shot get behind him for Bonk to tap in at 19:52.
The two goals doubled Bonk's production for the season to two goals. It was his first two-goal game since Feb. 27, 2003, when he was playing for Ottawa against Dallas.
"Obviously, I've been struggling offensively all year but I'm trying to help the team defensively,'' said Bonk. "Of course, I'd like to have more goals, but I feel that as long as I play well defensively and help the team in penalty killing, the rest will come.''
Markov jammed in a goal that stood up after video review at 9:01 of the middle period and Ryder deflected in a Mathieu Dandenault shot at 18:37, both on power plays.
Sundin brought the large contingent of Toronto fans among the sellout crowd of 21,273 back to life when he banged in the rebound of Bryan McCabe's shot off the end boards 17 seconds into the third period.
It was the Leafs' first goal scored while playing five attackers on five in the last six games.
But Cristobal Huet was solid the rest of the way in goal for Montreal and Murray added a goal with 3:11 left to play. The Canadiens outshot Toronto 29-28.
Tempers picked up late in the game as Sundin and Rivet exchanged slashes and Rivet jumped the Leafs captain, sparking a shoving match at centre ice that caused no further damage.
Moments later, Tie Domi went after Todd Simpson and a full-scale brawl ensued, with Dandenault also trading punches with Allison and Aaron Downey with Luke Richardson. Tucker and Mike Ribeiro were also in the mix.
Then came the Tucker-Kovalev exchange.
Leafs defenceman Alexander Khavanov left the game 2:45 into the second period with a displaced fracture of the shin after taking a Sheldon Souray shot off the back of the right leg.
Notes: Domi and Clarke Wilm, both healthy scratches the last two games, were back in the Toronto lineup, while Matt Stajan and Aleksander Suglobov sat out. Andrew Wozniewski also didn't dress. . . Jan Bulis was scratched for a second game along with Mark Streit and Niklas Sundstrom. Francis Bouillon remains out with an ankle injury. . . The Canadiens signed Kyle Chipchura, their 2004 first-round draft pick, from the Prince Albert Raiders and assigned him to AHL Hamilton.