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Canadiens beat Ducks to snap two-game skid

by Arpon Basu /

MONTREAL -- Saku Koivu doesn't want to think about the possibility his team's visit to Bell Centre on Thursday may have been his last.

But if it was, it was a great way for the former Montreal Canadiens captain to go out.

Koivu's Anaheim Ducks weren't able to get him a win Thursday as Tomas Plekanec had a goal and two assists and Carey Price made 31 saves to lead the Canadiens to a 4-1 victory.

But the game's result was overshadowed by what came afterward, with Koivu receiving a lengthy standing ovation from the fans who cheered him on for 14 years in a Canadiens uniform, the final 10 of them as captain.

With his 39th birthday approaching, there is a very real possibility that the sight of Koivu taking a bow as the Montreal fans serenaded him with cheers before disappearing into the visitors' tunnel may have been his Bell Centre swan song.

And that would suit Koivu just fine.

"That was amazing, but let's not get ahead of ourselves; there's a lot of hockey left this year, and we'll see," Koivu said. "But if that was the one, the last time, it was exactly the way I imagined."

Koivu obviously would have preferred that moment came after a Ducks win, but the line of Plekanec, rookie Michael Bournival and captain Brian Gionta didn't allow that to happen, combining for three goals and four assists to help snap a two-game losing streak for the Canadiens (6-4-0).

The line has been rolling lately for the Canadiens, taking over the offensive burden from the line of Lars Eller, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. Plekanec has four goals and three assists in his past four games, Bournival extended his point streak to four games, with two goals and three assists in that span, and Gionta has two goals and two assists in four games.

"The chemistry is there with those three guys," said Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, who put Bournival on his second line two games ago due to injuries. "Bournival brings a lot of speed. He skates really well, he competes, and he's taking advantage of playing with two good, veteran players. Plekanec is playing well now, [Gionta] the same thing, so [Bournival] is using the experience he's getting on that line to make him successful."

Plekanec got off to a slow start, with a goal and an assist the first six games, but he now has nine points in 10 games this season, good for second on the team. He didn't hesitate to point to the rookie Bournival for sparking him and Gionta.

"We can't give him enough credit; he really made our line much better," Plekanec said. "He's strong on the puck, he's skating, he's creating turnovers and he makes it easy on everyone. He's playing great hockey."

Patrick Maroon scored the lone goal and Jonas Hiller made 21 saves for the Ducks (7-3-0), who have lost two straight to start their season-long eight-game road trip.

The two losses snapped a seven-game win streak for Anaheim, and coach Bruce Boudreau is at a loss to explain why his team has played so poorly after such a long stretch of strong play.

"If I knew why we were getting away from it or what we weren't doing right now that worked for seven straight games, then I would obviously fix it," Boudreau said. "We're giving the puck away. I mean, I don't know what else you can say. We were giving the puck away the whole first period and just letting them have chance after chance after chance. I mean, pick your goal that you want to pick [to find] a mistake from our team. But we've got to fix it."

Some of the sting from the loss may have been tempered by what Koivu experienced at the end of the game.

The crowd had a chance to cheer the Habs' former captain during the singing of "The Star- Spangled Banner" prior to the game as the Canadiens showed Koivu standing on the blue line on the scoreboard. When the game was no longer in doubt late in the third period, the fans began to chant "Saku! Saku! Saku!" and gave him a standing ovation with 18.7 seconds left in the game as he lined up for a faceoff and once again was shown on the scoreboard.

"This is why this is a special place to play," said Therrien, who coached Koivu in Montreal from 2000 through 2003. "The standing ovation the fans gave him at the end … I was glad that Bruce Boudreau put him on the ice for the last 20 seconds and gave a chance to the fans to recognize the courage he had when he was in Montreal. Heads up to our fans; that's the reason why Montreal is a special place."

Those fans continued chanting Koivu's name after the final buzzer, and as he came onto the ice as the game's third star, the crowd erupted into a long ovation. He acknowledged his former Canadiens teammates Francis Bouillon and Plekanec, who was named the game's first star, watching from the Montreal bench and raised his stick in the air to the fans, who refused to sit down. Finally, Koivu took a bow and departed, even though the cheers didn't appear to be slowing down.

"It's overwhelming to be there," Koivu said. "It's been four or five years now [since I left], and you still get that reaction from the fans. The first [game back] I didn't know what to expect, so when it went well, I kind of expected that it would happen this time as well. It just shows how passionate they are, and they showed their appreciation."

The crowd reaction was probably helped by the win from the home team, which appeared inevitable right from the start of the game. The Canadiens came out flying from opening puck drop and the Ducks looked sluggish, taking two minor penalties and managing just one shot on goal by the time Montreal opened the scoring at 11:39 when Bournival established position in front of Hiller and tipped home a Nathan Beaulieu point shot for his second goal of the season.

A little less than five minutes later, Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf fanned on a clearing attempt from deep in his zone, with the puck landing on Bournival's stick at the top of the circles. He quickly passed it over to Plekanec for a one-timer that beat Hiller clean at 16:32 for his fifth of the season.

Montreal extended the lead to 3-0 in the second when Gionta scored on a two-man advantage at 11:49.

The Ducks cut the lead by one at 8:58 on Maroon's first goal of the season off a Nick Bonino feed on a 2-on-1 break, but the Canadiens got that one right back on the power play when Rene Bourque stepped out of the penalty box and scored his third goal of the season on a backhand shot through Hiller's legs at 12:39.

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