Andrei Kostitsyn, Halak help Canadiens end slide

DENVER (Ticker) — Andrei Kostitsyn’s breakaway goal and an
excellent effort by their backup goaltender helped the Montreal
Canadiens avoid their longest losing streak of the season.

Kostitsyn snapped a tie late in third period as the Canadiens
snapped a four-game slide Friday with a 4-2 victory over the
Colorado Avalanche.

The 24-year-old’s heroics would not have been possible if not
for Jaroslav Halak, who made a career-high 46 saves.

“It wasn’t easy, but we got the two points, and we needed
those,” Halak said. “It was a tough game because they were
shooting from everywhere. They were driving the net – always
somebody in front of me.”

Defensemen Francis Bouillon and Patrice Brisebois scored 57
seconds apart late in the first period and Tom Kostopoulos added
a shorthanded empty-netter for the Canadiens, who had lost nine
of their previous 11 contests.

“In the first period, (Halak) made two key saves, and we felt on
the bench that it gave us momentum,” Brisebois said. “Right
after that, we scored a goal, and then we got another one. It
was fun to play with the lead because we’ve been behind a lot
and had to play catch-up hockey. It’s hard to win games in the
NHL like that.”

Blue-liner Jordan Leopold and Tyler Arnason tallied and Peter
Budaj stopped 19 shots for the Avalanche, who have dropped four
in a row.

“It’s a tough loss, but we have to find a way to get points any
way we can,” Leopold said. “It was a tough battle out there,
and we had our chances to do something.”

“It’s extremely disappointing we ended up losing that game,”
Colorado defenseman John-Michael Liles added. “It’s
unfortunate. I thought it was one of our better games.”

With the game knotted at 2-2, defenseman Mathieu Dandenault
lofted a pass over defenders to Kostitsyn, who did an excellent
job corralling the bouncing puck. Kostitsyn then deked to his
backhand and stuffed the puck between the pads of Budaj with
2:16 to play.

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“We got the puck in the neutral zone, and at the red line, my
teammate made a great pass to me in the zone,” Kostitsyn said.
“I got to the net and scored.”

Nine seconds after Montreal blue-liner Josh Gorges was whistled
for interference, Kostopoulos sealed the win with a shot from
his own zone that trickled into the vacant net with 25 seconds

Less than a minute after Bouillon opened the scoring with 2:51
remaining in the first period, Brisebois doubled the Canadiens’
advantage with a power-play goal.

All-Star defenseman Andrei Markov’s shot from the high slot hit
captain Saku Koivu in front. Brisebois collected the puck at
the right faceoff circle and fired a wrist shot past an
unsuspecting Budaj.

“It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but sometimes you need a game
like this to get back on track and build some confidence,” Koivu
said. “We had some great plays by our goaltender tonight.”

Montreal was dominated after taking a two-goal lead, getting
outshot by a 36-9 margin over the final 40 minutes.

Fortunately for the Canadiens, Halak was spectacular. He
stopped three different breakaway chances, including one by Cody
McCormick midway through the third that preserved Montreal’s 2-1

“We put everything at (Halak),” Colorado’s Ian Laperriere said.
“We tied the game at the end and they just came back. We had
almost 50 shots on net, but (Halak) played well for them
tonight. We should have had more than two goals, but he made a
couple great saves.”

“The way we’ve been playing lately, we needed one goalie to step
up, and Jaroslav did that tonight,” Canadiens coach Guy
Carbonneau said. “He made the saves when we needed, and I think
that’s a good start for our club.”

Halak did make a mistake with seven minutes remaining, allowing
Arnason’s slap shot to trickle between his pads and forge a 2-2