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Lang, Kovalev click in Habs' win

by Brian Compton
Just as they did during their time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, forwards Robert Lang and Alexei Kovalev are now clicking for the Montreal Canadiens.

The duo wreaked havoc on the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night, as Lang scored twice while Kovalev had two assists as the Habs cruised to a 4-1 win at the Bell Centre. Both players also had a plus-3 rating.

Lang, who was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks just before training camp for a second-round draft pick, has four goals in his last four games. Kovalev has five assists during that span.

"It was a good, fun game," said Lang, whose ninth and 10th goals gave him the team lead. "Everybody played well. You need a game like that once in a while."

Not everything went well for the Canadiens, though. They suffered a pair of injuries, as Christopher Higgins went down with an upper-body injury in the first before Mathieu Dandenault broke his arm in the second following a hit by Calgary's Dustin Boyd.

Higgins is scheduled to have an MRI on Wednesday, while Dandenault is out indefinitely.

"We'll know more after that," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said of Higgins' upcoming exam. "I can't tell you if it's one day or six weeks."

But Montreal overcame the injuries thanks to the chemistry between Lang and Kovalev, along with the goaltending of Jaroslav Halak, who made 32 saves. Halak stopped all 14 shots he faced in the first period. It was his first win since Oct. 20 against the Florida Panthers. He had gone 0-2-1 in four starts since winning his first two outings. The 23-year-old Slovak has allowed one goal in each of his three wins this season.

"It's a big relief," Halak said of the victory. "When you don't play a lot, you want to get into the game early, and there were a lot of shots at the beginning of the game. That was good for me."

Lang quickly got things going for the Canadiens, scoring his first goal of the night 3:41 into the game. After taking a pass from Kovalev, Lang skated down the left side and took a shot on goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. That shot was stopped, but the rebound went off Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano and into the net as Montreal took a 1-0 lead.

Matt D'Agostini continued his torrid scoring pace and put the Habs up by a pair at 4:17 of the second period. D'Agostini, playing in just his fifth game since being promoted from AHL Hamilton, blocked a shot at his own blue line and then beat Kiprusoff on a breakaway for his fourth tally.

"It's gone according to plan, I'd say, but even I never thought it would come like this, this fast," D'Agostini said. "The goals are coming, obviously, but I'm pretty happy with my all-around play and hopefully I can continue to do better and better."

Calgary cut the deficit in half just over two minutes later on Dustin Boyd's seventh goal of the season. The Flames' center took a gorgeous cross-ice feed from captain Jarome Iginla and ripped a shot past Halak to make it 2-1.

But Montreal restored its two-goal lead before the end of the second period, as Lang notched his second of the night with 4:42 remaining. With the teams at even strength, Lang took a pass from former Flame Alex Tanguay and slipped the puck just inside the goal post to give the Habs a 3-1 lead.

"We were not good enough, and that's the bottom line," Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf said. "They beat us in every aspect of the game -- not by a lot, but they had that little bit more."

Playing in his 1,100th regular-season game, Kovalev assisted on both of Lang's goals. He failed to score, though, extending his personal drought to 17 games.

"I'm just happy I'm healthy and I've been able to play a lot of games," Kovalev said of the milestone.

Andrei Markov rounded out the scoring with his fifth goal of the season 11:06 into the third period. After the Flames failed to convert on two power plays, Markov took a pass from Lang and fired a slap shot past Kiprusoff to make it 4-1.

Sparks flew near the conclusion of the game -- Calgary's first in Montreal since Oct. 17, 2006 -- following a collision between Markov and Phaneuf. Markov was given a tripping penalty with 1:54 left.

"All I know is I cut in and my legs were taken out, and you're not allowed to do that," Phaneuf said.

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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