Surging Canadiens roll to easy victory over Leafs

TORONTO (AP) — Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves, and Alex Kovalev
had a goal and three assists in the Montreal Canadiens’ 6-2
victory over Toronto on Saturday night.

After dropping a 5-2 decision to Toronto two weeks ago in
Montreal, the Canadiens have gone 5-0-1 to move five points
clear of ninth-place Florida in the race for one of the eight
Eastern Conference playoff spots.

Guillaume Latendresse, Alex Tanguay, Chris Higgins, Maxim
Lapierre and Josh Gorges also scored for Montreal. John Mitchell
and Boyd Devereaux scored for Toronto.

Halak wasn’t tested often in earning his 18th victory of the
season, although he made a nice save on Mikhail Grabovski in the
second period. The Slovak goalie was backed up by AHL callup
Marc Denis with Carey Price sidelined by the flu.

Kovalev opened the scoring at 6:11 of the first period with a
beautiful wrist shot that found a narrow gap above Martin
Gerber’s shoulder. Latendresse then converted from in-close just
over two minutes later and the Habs were off and running.

The large group of Montreal fans in attendance at Air Canada
Centre responded in kind, sending up chants of “Let’s go Habs!
Let’s go Habs!”

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They were given even more reason to cheer late in the period as
Georges Laraques ran over defenseman Jay Harrison before getting
in a good punch or two when the pair squared off.

Latendresse had a chance to extend Montreal’s lead when he was
awarded a penalty shot early in the second period, but Gerber
got his body in front of the shot. It was the second straight
game a Habs player failed to convert a penalty shot – Tom
Kostopoulos was turned away on Long Island on Thursday night.

It mattered little as Tanguay converted a great pass from
captain Saku Koivu at 7:29 to make it 3-0. Kovalev also earned
an assist on the goal as all three members of the red-hot line
continued to pile up points.

Gerber was furious after Higgins made it 4-0 at 8:59. The goalie
had been sparring with Tomas Plekanec moments before getting
beaten with a wrist shot.

Toronto ended Halak’s shutout bid 2:11 into the third period
when Mitchell tipped home a shot, but any comeback hopes didn’t
last long. Lapierre and Gorges scored power-play goals less than
three minutes apart to ice the win.