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Goal-a-game Gionta clicks again with Gomez

by John McGourty
Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez were hoping they still had the chemistry that made them Stanley Cup winners in 2003 with the New Jersey Devils and produced a 48-goal season by Gionta in 2006.

It was there Saturday night in Buffalo when the Canadiens won their second-straight overtime game, 2-1, on Gionta's tip in past goalie Ryan Miller. It was an airborne rebound off the boards of Gomez's shot.

"That wasn't the way we drew it up, but we'll take it," Gionta said. "I was going to the net trying to find it and it bounced real nice for me. Any time a wrist shot goes off the back boards, there's a little bit of luck."

"I'd like to say that's the way we drew it up, but the one thing about Brian is that you know he's going to be around the net and he knows what to do when he gets the puck," Gomez said, adding that Gionta has "magic" around the net.

The two Americans -- Gionta is from the Rochester suburb, Greece, N.Y., and Gomez is from Anchorage -- had magic in 2006 when Gionta had a career-high 89 points and Gomez had his best season with 33 goals, 51 assists and 84 points.

Gionta slipped to 22 and 20 goals the past two seasons after Gomez left the Devils to sign a free-agent contract with the New York Rangers. Gomez's production also slipped with the Rangers.

The Montreal Canadiens made a trade in June to get Gomez, giving up Chris Higgins and three prospects.

For Canadiens General Manager Bob Gainey, that move was like putting bait in front of the NHL's top free-agent scorers. Gomez is one of the NHL's craftiest centers, a shifty skater with eyes behind his head who can find linemates with pinpoint passes.

The Gomez deal helped the Canadiens sign Gionta, a right winger, and left winger Mike Cammalleri and they also added rugged left winger Travis Moen from the San Jose Sharks.

Coach Jacques Martin is using a line of Gomez, Gionta and Moen while Cammalleri, a 39-goal scorer a year ago with the Calgary Flames, skates on the second line.

When fourth-line center Glen Metropolit got hurt in Saturday night's 2-1 overtime victory over the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena, Martin put Cammalleri on the line with Gomez and Gionta and their speed proved too much for the Sabres to handle, leading to Gionta's goal on a rebound of Gomez's shot.

Gionta started the play with a pass to Gomez, then went hard to the net. Gomez used his speed to get in position to fire the shot at Miller that was deflected to the end boards. It bounced right back to Gionta and he tapped the airborne puck in for the winning goal.

Gionta also scored Montreal's first goal in Thursday's 4-3 overtime victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Tomas Plekanec won the right-side, offensive-zone faceoff, Cammalleri pushed through to get the puck and centered it to Gionta, who converted quickly.

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