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Canadiens stay close to Eastern Conference lead with 5-2 win over Kings

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

LOS ANGELES - Almost 15 seasons have passed since the Montreal Canadiens beat the Los Angeles Kings to win the Stanley Cup for the 24th time. The only remnants of their most recent championship are Patrice Brisebois and current coaches Guy Carbonneau and Kirk Muller.

Brisebois - now a part-time player at 37 - triggered a three-goal second period, and Jaroslav Halak made 35 saves in his first start of the season to lead the Canadiens to a 5-2 win over Los Angeles on Saturday.

The victory was the ninth in 12 games for the Canadiens, who are one point behind New Jersey for the best record in the Eastern Conference. The last time the Canadiens finished first in the conference was 1993 when they won the Cup by beating the Kings in five games.

"I have great memories of those finals, so it's always fun to play the Kings here - even though it's not at the Forum," Brisebois said. "That's a long time ago, 15 years already. I was young back then and I learned a lot from those playoffs and playing with guys like Kirk Muller, Vince Damphousse, Patrick Roy and Guy Carbonneau - who's my coach now."

That was Brisebois' first full NHL season, and he would like nothing better than to have Stanley Cup titles as bookends to his career.

"The competition in the league is so high, and there are more teams now, so the talent is really spread out," he said. "I don't think you're going to see teams like the Canadiens and Islanders win four Stanley Cups in a row, but I can feel we're building something here and we believe in our system. We haven't won anything yet, but we're doing great."

Brisebois opened the scoring at 5:09 of the second period with a one-timer that changed direction off the right skate of Anze Kopitar. It was his first goal in 36 games this season and first since Jan. 8. This was the first time Brisebois was in the lineup after 10 straight games as a healthy scratch.

"It's a new role for me," he said. "I'm not saying it's easy, but I'm a team guy and I did what I had to do. I worked overtime in practice, kept in shape and stayed positive. Today I had a chance to play, I think I played a great game, and the team won. So it was fun to come back.

"I know I'm in good shape, but you need the game shape. The first few shifts I felt like, 'Whoa, the tempo's really high.' So I just tried to make simple plays, and it worked."

Andrei Kostitsyn and Guillaume Latendresse also scored and captain Saku Koivu connected on a power play for the Canadiens. Tom Kostopoulos scored into an empty net with 1:53 to play.

Halak made his first NHL start since April 5, 2007, when he was pulled after two periods in a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers. He served as the backup the previous 22 games.

Kopitar and Rob Blake scored for the Kings, who faced Montreal for the first time since Dec. 3, 2005. Rookie Erik Ersberg stopped 18 shots in his fourth start. He beat Ottawa 2-0 on Thursday with 40 saves for his first NHL victory and shutout.

The Canadiens, who entered with the NHL's best power play, scored their second goal at 7:40 of the period while on the advantage. Koivu got his stick on Mark Streit's one-timer in the slot and notched his 14th goal. The Canadiens have scored a power-play goal in 19 of 22 games (30-for-102).

Latendresse added his 15th goal about five minutes later during a delayed penalty. He got a cross-ice pass from Sergei Kostitsyn and beat Ersberg stick side to give Montreal a 3-0 lead and help spoil Ersberg's 26th birthday.

"I think we played a pretty good game," Kopitar said. "We were battling hard, but we gave up a couple of easy goals that we shouldn't have, and that's what cost us the game."

Blake got the Kings on the board 16:53 into the second, converting a rebound of Michael Cammalleri's scoring attempt during a power play. It was Blake's 700th NHL point and his 159th goal with the Kings, tying Bob Berry for 10th on the franchise list.

Andrei Kostitsyn restored Montreal's three-goal margin with 16:11 left, and Kopitar made it 4-2 less than three minutes later.

Notes: Montreal will conclude its four-game trip Sunday at Stanley Cup champion Anaheim. Since beating the Kings in the 1993 finals, the Canadiens are 9-16-0 with five ties against the defending champion. ... Saturday marked the 71st anniversary of the death of Montreal's Howie Morenz, a three-time MVP centre who died six weeks after breaking his leg in a game against Chicago. ... The Kings hadn't hosted Montreal since March 6, 2004.


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