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Plekanec hat-trick leads Habs past Bruins in pre-season tilt

NHL.com @NHL

HALIFAX - A natural hat trick by forward Tomas Plekanec paced the Montreal Canadiens to a 4-3 pre-season win over the Boston Bruins in Halifax.

The teams played a fast paced tilt before a largely pro-Montreal crowd of 9,967 at the Metro Centre on Sunday.

It was the third win of the exhibition schedule for the Canadiens who were playing their sixth game in seven nights.

"I thought the first 40 minutes was really good," said Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau.

"Tonight I thought we controlled the puck, we made the little plays and the little details. In the third period we turned it over a couple of times and it cost us but overall it was a good game."

Montreal opened the scoring early in the first period when a shot off the right wing boards by free agent acquisition Brian Smolinski was deflected past Bruins goaltender Manny Fernandez by Plekanec. The goal was Plekanec's first of the pre-season.

Plekanec added to his tally with a power play goal cutting off the left wing on a feed by Roman Hamrlik and calmly sliding a backhand past Fernandez, giving the Habs a quick 2-0 lead just six minutes into the first period.

The Canadiens jumped to a 3-0 lead in the second when Plekanec wristed a rebound off a Michael Ryder shot high over Fernandez's shoulder on another power play.

Plekanec said it was the first time he had scored three in a row in as long as he could remember.

"When I was nine, eight maybe," he laughed when asked about the scoring feat after the game.

Bruins right winger Chuck Kobasew cut the lead to 3-1 beating Canadiens goalie Jarolsav Halak by finishing off a slick three-way passing play with linemates David Krejci and P.J. Axelsson.

But the Canadiens restored their two-goal lead just minutes later when winger Chris Higgins beat Fernandez with a weak wrist shot from the top of the slot.

The goal was the first for Higgins, who was suiting up for second game in a row, after sitting out the first four games of the exhibition schedule.

He had a chance for his second when he was awarded a penalty shot near the end of the second period, but was stopped by Fernandez on a deke attempt.

"The legs were tired tonight with the back-to-back," Higgins said.

"It felt a little sluggish, but definitely better in my head making decisions and being up to game speed."

Carbonneau said that he was encouraged by the performance put in by two of his team's key veterans.

"That combination were strong tonight, they made some good plays. And Tomas, I think he finished the season really strong last year and now he's starting where he finished off," said Carbonneau.

The Bruins, who were outshot 33-17 over two periods came out with a flurry in the third, slicing the Canadiens lead in half on a goal by veteran winger Glen Murray.

The goal drew a large cheer for the native of nearby Bridgewater, N.S., who always seems to do well in trips to Halifax.

"I had a few chances, but we're all trying to get the rust off a little bit. We've played a few games where we haven't played that well, but we have a few games left to see if we can get things going the right way," said Murray.

In the end the Bruins made it close when Phil Kessel beat Halak with just nine seconds left in the game.

Although pleased with the third period rally coach Claude Julien said the Bruins needed to work on their overall game.

"I think we need to be a little harder to play against," Julien said.

"I thought we started doing that in the third...but we've had some slow starts."

Montreal, 3-3, outshot Boston, 1-2-1, 37-30.

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