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Koivu's goal gives Gainey a win

by Brian Compton
Saku Koivu gave Bob Gainey a night to remember on Tuesday.

The Montreal Canadiens' captain scored on the power play 1:40 into overtime, lifting the Habs to a 4-3 win against the Edmonton Oilers at the Bell Centre.

Gainey was behind Montreal's bench for the first time since firing Guy Carbonneau 24 hours earlier. The Canadiens gave up three goals in the second period and trailed 3-2 going into the third, but Koivu tied things up with 4:35 remaining in regulation before netting the game-winner in the extra session.

"Nobody gains any room on us tonight and we gain some space on somebody else," Gainey said, referring to the ever-so-tight playoff race in the Eastern Conference.

Koivu's overtime tally was a redirection off a point shot by Mathieu Schneider. His game-tying goal, however, required a lengthy video review.

Referee David Banfield pointed to the net repeatedly when the puck deflected up off the stick of Oilers defenseman Steve Staios on Andrei Kostitsyn's centering pass and caromed in off Koivu, who drove hard to the net.

"I knew that it hit me on my chest and I knew that I didn't intentionally try to grab the puck or anything," Koivu said. "I was pretty confident that it was a good goal, but you never know. It was a pretty long period that we had to wait there, and it was a relief."

The Canadiens were able to kill off a tripping penalty on Alex Tanguay with 2:10 left in the third and then were awarded a power play of their own when Patrick O'Sullivan went off for slashing just 50 seconds into overtime.

Sheldon Souray, Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner all scored in the second period for the Oilers, who outshot the Habs by a 17-2 margin in the third. But Carey Price was sensational between the pipes in his fourth straight start for Montreal and finished with 29 saves. Roloson made 22 saves in his 22nd consecutive start for the Oilers, extending his team-record streak.

"Overall, we played a pretty good game," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. "There were a lot of positive signs in the game, but it stings when you lose a game like that where you're up with under six minutes to go and you don't get two points. We probably could have negotiated one point from Montreal and taken two."

Montreal, which lost 10 of 13 in late January and February, had dropped the first two games of its three-game road trip in the wake of a four-game winning run before the trade deadline.

"We made a few changes in our game," Koivu said. "We're trying to keep the puck a bit more and try to make clean plays and then simplify when we get in the neutral zone."

This is the second time in three years that Gainey has replaced his coach in the middle of a season. In 2006, he fired Claude Julien and the Canadiens went 25-13-6 down the stretch before losing in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"He really brings a calming demeanor into the locker room," Price said. "He's kind of like the more strong, silent type. Whenever he does say something, you really have to listen because you know it's going to be something important."

Outshot 12-0 in the second following Souray's goal, Montreal tied it at 2 on its second shot of the period when Glen Metropolit scored at 16:26 with his first goal in six games since the Canadiens picked him up on waivers from Philadelphia on Feb. 27.



Tanguay, who opened the scoring 8:12 into the first, went to the dressing room briefly early in the second after he was cross-checked in the face by Souray in front of the Oilers net on a play that went unpenalized -- much to the dismay of the Habs' forward.

"I know they all make mistakes, but that's a game-changing event," said Tanguay, who had four stitches above his upper lip. "It's a four-minute penalty, and that can change a game around, especially with the game meaning so much to both sides at this time of the year. It's a call that the referees can't miss."

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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