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Montr?al Canadiens vs. Anaheim Ducks @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Montreal Canadiens (36-26-6-2) at Anaheim Mighty Ducks (25-27-9-8).

TIME: Monday, 10:30 p.m. EST.

The rolling Montreal Canadiens look to continue tightening their grip on a playoff spot as they close a four-game road trip with a matchup against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Montreal has won seven of eight, including a 2-1 mark on this trip, to get closer to assuring itself of a postseason berth. While climbing within three points of New Jersey for sixth place in the East, the Canadiens have moved seven ahead of the New York Islanders for the eighth spot.

Jose Theodore has keyed Montreal's success lately with a 5-1 mark and a 1.83 goals-against average in his last six starts, but it was his backup that starred in the team's latest victory.

Mathieu Garon saw his first action in two weeks Saturday and looked solid, making a career-high 46 saves in a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

"We know the strength of our team this season has been in the nets," coach Claude Julien said after his team was outshot 48-24. "Everybody knows Jose Theodore, but we have called on Garon against some of the better teams in the league and he has come up big every time."

Garon made his first start since Feb. 21 at Toronto, where he was benched after giving up three goals on 11 shots. He stopped 17 shots in each of the last two periods Saturday in winning his fifth straight decision.

Richard Zednik had two goals and an assist for the Canadiens, who were missing injured forwards Alex Kovalev and Niklas Sundstrom. Kovalev separated his shoulder in his first game with the Canadiens after being acquired from the New York Rangers.

Anaheim lost 2-1 to Pittsburgh on Saturday, becoming the first team the Penguins have beaten at home in 17 games.

The loss was a blow to the defending Western Conference champion Ducks, who began the night six points out of a playoff spot. Playing their third game in four nights, they managed just 10 shots in the first two periods and only two during a critical four-minute power play early in the third.

"Here we are in a must-win situation and we didn't handle it the way you have to," Anaheim coach Mike Babcock said.

The Ducks, who managed just one shot in the opening 19 minutes of the first period, cut the lead in half with 9.8 seconds left when Steve Rucchin converted the rebound of Rob Niedermayer's backhander for his 18th goal.

Rucchin has four goals and seven points in his last five games.

STANDINGS (through March 6): Canadiens - 80 points, 4th place, 6 PB, Northeast Division. Mighty Ducks - 67 points, 4th place, 16 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Zednik, 23 goals; Mike Ribeiro, 37 assists and 55 points; Darren Langdon, 119 PIM. Mighty Ducks - Sergei Fedorov, 24 goals, 31 assists and 55 points; Garrett Burnett, 129 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 6): Canadiens - Power play: 18.1 percent (51 for 281), 7th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.3 percent (218 for 268), 26th. Mighty Ducks - Power play: 16.9 percent (45 for 267), 11th, tied. Penalty killing: 84.7 percent (249 for 294), 9th.

GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Theodore (28-24-5, 6 SO, 2.17 GAA); Garon (8-4-1, 0, 2.41). Mighty Ducks - Jean-Sebastien Giguere (15-26-5, 3, 2.56); Martin Gerber (10-9-4, 2, 2.28).

2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Mighty Ducks, 1-0-1.

LAST MEETING: March 5, 2003; Mighty Ducks, 3-1. At Anaheim, Calif., Mike Leclerc and Patric Kjellberg scored 63 seconds apart in the third period to lead the Mighty Ducks.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 17-15-2-2 on the road; Mighty Ducks - 17-7-6-4 at home.

Associated Press
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