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Canadiens 5, Coyotes 2 @NHLdotcom

MONTREAL (AP) - Whether he was auditioning for the Olympics or not, Jose Theodore was good enough for the Montreal Canadiens to claim a much-needed win.

Andrei Kostsitsyn scored his first NHL goal, Michael Ryder scored his team-high 13th and Theodore made 27 saves, leading Montreal to a 5-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night.

Tomas Plekanec, Niklas Sundstrom and Jan Bulis also scored for the Canadiens, who had lost nine of 12 (3-5-4) after falling 5-3 on Saturday night to Los Angeles in their first game in a week.

The Coyotes ended a season-high three-game winning streak. With Phoenix down 4-0, Boyd Devereaux scored midway through the third to ruin Theodore's shutout bid. Mike Ricci scored on a scramble at 18:49.

"They came out strong," Theodore said. "They had three great scoring chances right off the bat and that seemed to give everybody confidence and we dominated the first period. After that, they tried to come back but it was too late."

With Coyotes coach and Team Canada general manager Wayne Gretzky looking on, Theodore outplayed Phoenix's Curtis Joseph, another competitor for one of the three goalie spots on Canada's Olympic squad.

"Theodore was very good tonight," Gretzky said. "... Listen, I've said it many times, the pressure he faces every day playing in Montreal, he handles it extremely well. I have the utmost respect for him as a player."

Canadiens coach Claude Julien acknowledged that his star goalie had no lack of motivation going into the game.

"There's no doubt with the Olympics coming and Gretzky in town, and Cujo being talked about as a potential candidate, (Theodore) wanted to showcase his stuff, and we just hope that Wayne Gretzky is in Edmonton on Thursday," Julien joked.

Joseph, chosen by Gretzky for Canada's 2002 gold medal-winning Olympic team, stopped 23 shots.

"I'm thinking about our team winning the hockey game and that's my only thought, and certainly we didn't put our best effort in," Joseph said. "They were much hungrier than we were and it showed. They deserved to win."

Coyotes captain Shayne Doan was assessed a gross misconduct following the game for arguing with refereee Stephane Auger.

Canadiens captain Saku Koivu and defenseman Mark Streit were out of the lineup with the flu. Koivu had hoped to return after missing three games because of a groin injury.

Recalled from Hamilton of the AHL earlier in the day, Kostsitsyn made his third appearance of the season. Limited to 34 seconds of play overall in his previous two games, the 20-year-old from Belarus made the most of a rare opportunity when he put his first career shot past Joseph 6:39 in on his second and final shift of the period.

"He's filled a tough role," Canadiens defenseman Sheldon Souray said. "He's been sitting on the bench a little bit, probably not getting as much ice time as he's used to, but when he got out there he made the most of it for his first goal and we sure needed it, so good for him."

Phoenix defenseman Zbynek Michalek made a costly giveaway on Plekanec's power-play goal at 10:55. Michalek threw the puck up the middle from behind his own net, directly to Plekanec, who drove the slot unmarked and beat Joseph with a backhand to put the Canadiens up 2-0.

Sundstrom made it 3-0 11:44 into the second when his deflection of Souray's shot past Joseph stood after a lengthy video review determined he made contact with the puck no higher than the level of the crossbar.

Ryder scored for the second straight game, beating Joseph 6:29 into the third to increase the lead to 4-0.

Theodore lost his bid for his first shutout of the season moments later as Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek got his stick on Devereaux's shot. The puck fluttered and changed speeds, and Theodore misjudged its flight as it slipped under his right arm and dropped behind him into the net.

The Montreal goalie made two stops before surrendering Phoenix's second goal as Ricci swatted the puck under the sprawled Theodore with 1:11 remaining.

Bulis finished off a 2-on-1 with Richard Zednik at 19:05.

Notes: Coyotes RW Mike Johnson ended a six-game point streak. Johnson had five goals and four assists during the streak. ... Kostsitsyn, limited to 0:54 of ice time in the first, finished with 6:49 in eight shifts overall. ... Montreal has sold out each of its 17 home games this season. ... Canadiens C Radek Bonk missed his third straight game with a groin injury.

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