Third-period rally leads Canadiens over Islanders

UNIONDALE, New York (Ticker) — Tomas Plekanec and Alexei
Kovalev showed the New York Islanders why no lead is safe in the

Plekanec scored goals just over two minutes apart and Kovalev
capped a four-goal outburst in the third period with his second
of the game as the Montreal Canadiens rallied for a 5-4 victory
over the hapless Islanders on Saturday.

Kovalev opened the scoring two minutes into the game, but the
Islanders netted four straight goals en route to a 4-1 lead
after two periods. Plekanec ignited Montreal’s outburst less
than eight minutes into the third and drew the Canadiens within
one at 9:55 with his second of the night.

“In the third period, we started skating and they couldn’t keep
up with us,” Plekanec said. “In the first two, we were making
stupid mistakes.”

Chris Higgins forged a 4-4 tie with 5:54 remaining, and Kovalev
netted the decisive tally 73 seconds later as the Canadiens
outshot the Islanders, 16-4, in the third.

“We worked in the third period – that’s it,” Montreal coach Guy
Carbonneau said. “I don’t think we worked in the first two
periods. … What we did in the third was, we got on the ice and
made them work in their own zone. We got pressure and they took
some penalties, and then the momentum started going our way.”

Plekanec and Kovalev also added two assists apiece and Carey
Price made 27 saves for the Canadiens, who have won three in a

Defenseman Mark Streit, Jon Sim, captain Bill Guerin and Frans
Nielsen scored for New York, which has lost six straight.

“I take my hat off to (the Canadiens), but there is no reason we
couldn’t have weathered the storm,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon
said. “I don’t know if in the last four games we had as much
circling as we had in the third period.”

After Kovalev beat former Montreal goaltender Yann Danis to the
stick side from the slot at 2:03 of the opening period, New York
stormed back with four straight goals to seemingly take control.
However, the Canadiens had other plans as Plekanec knocked in a
rebound from in front at 7:48 of the third and converted a
backhand pass by Andrei Kostitsyn 2:07 later to cut the deficit
to 4-3.

“He finally got the break that he needed,” Carbonneau said of
Plekanec, who entered with just one goal in his first nine
games. “He’s easy to coach and takes responsibility.”

“The way he’s been playing, it’s poetic justice that he got
points,” Higgins added.

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A native of Long Island, Higgins knotted the contest just over
14 minutes into the final session, receiving a backhand feed
from behind the net by captain Saku Koivu as three defenders
watched idly and beat Danis from alone on the doorstep.

“The biggest thing is, there were a lot of shortcuts (on our
part),” Gordon said. “It wasn’t because of anything they did
differently. The loosening up in front of our net and the shot
area, that shouldn’t happen.”

“We just stopped playing. We didn’t skate anymore, we just
waited,” Streit said. “We gave them the space and the time.
Teams like that, they’re going to take advantage. It was kind
of like a collapse. It hurts a lot.”

Higgins admitted his team was lucky to escape with two points.

“We played one period and we won,” he said. “I wish the effort
was more consistent over 60 minutes. We lost too many 1-on-1
battles in the first two periods, and they took it to us. We
didn’t play smart.”

With momentum completely on the side of the Canadiens,
defenseman Andrei Markov unleashed a shot from the left point.
Standing in the slot, Kovalev got the blade of his stick on the
puck, which also caromed off the skate of blue-liner Thomas Pock
before getting past Danis with 4:41 left, putting Montreal

“Usually, other teams would destroy us (in that situation),”
Kovalev said. “The good thing was that we showed character and
(that) we’ll fight to the end.”

“Obviously, Montreal’s a good team, but I was still feeling good
(in the third),” said Danis, who made 27 saves. “They got a
couple of lucky bounces and they capitalized on them. It’s
extremely disappointing. Obviously, losing a game when you’re
up 4-1 is never a good thing.”

Trailing, 1-0, New York forged a tie when Streit – a former
Canadien – beat Price high to the glove side during a power play
at 3:47 of the first with a slap shot from the right point that
deflected off a defender’s stick on its way to the net. Sim put
the Islanders ahead, 2-1, with 7:33 to go in the session, firing
a wrist shot from the top of the left faceoff circle past Price
for a soft goal.

It was the 100th career point for Sim, who gave New York its
first lead in over 317 minutes.

Guerin doubled the advantage during a power play at 1:40 of the
middle period, redirecting Doug Weight’s shot past Price, and
Nielsen made it a three-goal bulge with 3:17 left by beating the
netminder high to the glove side from alone in front.