MONTREAL (AP) _ The Montreal Canadiens celebrated their latest win as if
they were already in the playoffs.
Steve Begin scored with 40.2 seconds remaining Tuesday night, giving the
Canadiens a 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.
The Bell Centre sellout crowd of 21,273 erupted in cheers as the Canadiens,
who moved one point ahead of the New York Islanders for seventh in the Eastern
Conference, began a wild celebration of the go-ahead goal.
``We are in the playoffs,'' said Canadiens defenseman Francis Bouillon, who
was mobbed by defensive partner Patrice Brisebois. ``For us, it's just like the
playoffs. It's huge.''
Michael Ryder scored his second power-play goal of the game earlier in the
period to tie it at 2. Montreal forechecked to keep the puck in the Senators'
zone late in the period. Begin tipped a slow-moving puck past goalie Patrick
Lalime for the go-ahead goal after Bouillon's point shot struck and broke
Senators defenseman Karel Rachunek's stick.
``It was really an important goal and a big win for the team,'' Bouillon
said. ``We played well (Monday) in New York, and then this was maybe one of our
best games. We have to keep playing like that until the end of the season.''
Joe Juneau added an empty-net goal.
Jose Theodore's 17-save performance helped the Canadiens win for the third
time in four games since a season-high four-game losing streak.
``It was just a big win, especially against Ottawa,'' Ryder said. ``They're
at the top of the standings and we're battling it out at the bottom. I think
beating the top team is very emotional, and we had the emotion tonight. You
could see it on that goal. Everyone just got excited.''
Mike Fisher scored his first goal of the season and Martin Havlat got his
fifth goal in three games for Ottawa, which hadn't lost in regulation in nine
``They always work hard against us, we expected that before the game
started,'' Senators defenseman Chris Phillips said. ``They forechecked hard and
they didn't let up the entire game. They stuck with it and special teams were a
big part tonight. We came up on the short end and usually when you do that, you
don't win the games.''
Playing his third game since returning from his second long injury stint of
the season, Fisher beat Theodore with 19.6 seconds remaining in the second
Havlat hit a goalpost and Senators newcomer Peter Bondra hit the crossbar as
Ottawa came close to expanding its lead early in the third period.
Ryder scored in the first period and tied the game for the second time with
his second goal of the game _ his 18th of the season _ 5:43 into the third.
Trailing 2-1 after Fisher's goal, Ryder put a shot through Rachunek's legs
and past Lalime for his third two-goal game of the season.
Havlat, who scored his fourth career hat trick Sunday, got his 25th of the
season 6:51 in.
With Canadiens captain Saku Koivu off for holding, Havlat took Marian
Hossa's pass in the right corner and banked a pass intended for Bryan Smolinski
off defenseman Stephane Quintal's skate past a startled Theodore.
Ryder tied it just 50 seconds later when he put away Richard Zednik's
rebound from the left edge of the crease.