<
>

Kovalev hurt in victory

3/6/2004

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- From Jose Theodore's viewpoint, the
Montreal Canadiens played just well enough to beat Phoenix -- and
stay on New Jersey's heels for sixth in the Eastern Conference.

Theodore made 21 saves, and Saku Koivu and Richard Zednik each
had a goal and an assist in Montreal's 4-3 win over the Coyotes on
Friday night. The two points gave the Canadiens 78 to New Jersey's
81 with another big contest coming up Saturday night in Los
Angeles.

"Back-to-back games this time of year, you've got to play well,
and points are really important," Theodore said. "I don't think
tonight we played the kind of game we wanted to play, which is a
playoff type of game. We got some penalties that could have cost
us."

Special teams sparkled for Montreal, which got power-play goals
from Pierre Dagenais and Koivu and a short-handed goal from Jim
Dowd in his first game with the Canadiens. Andrei Markov had two
assists, and they won again after seeing a five-game winning streak
snapped Wednesday at San Jose.

The debut wasn't as fortunate for Alex Kovalev, another forward
seeing his first action for the Habs. He separated his right
shoulder in the second period and was listed as day to day.

"I feel like it's not going to take that long," said Kovalev,
who joined the Canadiens on Wednesday after the New York Rangers
traded him for prospect Josef Balej and a second-round draft pick.
"I had a separation in that left shoulder, it was separated a lot
worse than I had now. You can see I'm moving my arm and everything,
so it feels more like a bruise."

Said Theodore: "It's frustrating for sure. You got one of
the top guys in the league, and he gets hurt."

Daymond Langkow, Mike Comrie and Chris Gratton scored for
Phoenix.

The Coyotes, winless in seven games (0-4-1-2) tried to rally
from a 4-1 deficit in the third period and fell short.

Zednik produced the three-goal lead when he shot from the high
slot after a pass from Markov, beating Brian Boucher 43 seconds in.

"It ended up being the winning goal," coach Claude Julien
said. "That type of game, we should have controlled it from there
on in, but for the second game in a row we took some bad penalties,
so we certainly have to get better in that area."

Comrie made it 4-2 just 2:15 later, and Gratton scored a
power-play goal at the 4:05 mark.

But the Canadiens allowed the Coyotes just four more shots the
rest of the way, and Theodore handled them for the win.

"For whatever reason, we seem to play desperate when we get
down a couple of goals, and we need to play like that at the
start," Langkow said.

After a scoreless first period, the Canadiens scored three times
in the second.

They broke through against Boucher, who had 10 of his 21 saves
in the first period, when Dagenais deflected Markov's wrist shot
2:46 in.

Phoenix responded 40 seconds later when Langkow wristed a
rebound over a fallen Theodore, but Montreal regained the lead with
6:29 remaining on a brilliant play by Andreas Dackell.

He stole the puck from Shane Doan along the boards, skated into
the left circle and passed across to Dowd at the crease. Dowd,
acquired Thursday from Minnesota, redirected the puck just enough
to bank it in off the opposite goal post.

"Dacks made a great play there," Dowd said. "I drove to the
net. It was on his forehand. I knew he was going to try to pass.
The defense played it well, and he made a great backhand pass just
right at my tape end."

Koivu also profited from a mistake by Phoenix's captain -- Doan
was in the penalty box for slashing when the Finnish center's shot
from above the circle found its way through Boucher's pads with
4:24 to go.

"I know it looks like four goals on 25 shots, but I felt better
about my game," said Boucher, 1-12-2 in his last 15 starts.

Game notes
Montreal LW Niklas Sundstrom missed his third straight game
with post-concussion syndrome. He did not make a four-game road
trip which ends Monday in Anaheim. ... Phoenix RW Mike Rupp,
acquired from New Jersey earlier Friday, was a healthy scratch. ...
The Coyotes are 4-15-3-3 since their season-best, six-game unbeaten
streak ended on Jan. 13. ... Montreal's Yanic Perreault had an
assist for 399 career points.