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Ward gets goal, assist in first game of season

3/12/2003

aSUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -- Jason Ward showed why the
Montreal Canadiens
recalled him from the American Hockey League.

In his first NHL game since the 2000-01 season, Ward had a goal
and an assist to lead Montreal to a 4-0 victory over the Florida
Panthers on Wednesday night.

"He's a guy who every game makes things happen with his work
ethic, his intelligence,'' said Claude Julien, who coached Ward at
Hamilton before replacing the fired Michel Therrien in Montreal in
January. "What he did tonight, he's been doing all year at
Hamilton. The guy deserves a chance. He did a good job tonight.''

Ward, the Canadiens' first-round pick in 1997, had two goals in
44 career games and spent the last two seasons in the minors before
being recalled Monday. He had 31 goals and a league-leading 72
points for Hamilton this season.

"When you come out flying in your first game, it feels great,''
Ward said. "But this is just one game. One of the things I was
good at this year is being consistent and that's what I want to do
every night is play consistent and show that I can play at this
level.''

Jose Theodore made 32 saves as the Canadiens handed the Panthers
their second consecutive 4-0 loss at home.

The Panthers, who lost to Buffalo Saturday night, also extended
their home winless streak to 10 games, a franchise record.

"I don't have any answers,'' Florida center Stephen Weiss said.
"We just play simple on the road. We get here and try to do too
much and turn the puck over. We're not as sharp at home, its very
evident.''

Yanic Perreault and Niklas Sundstrom each had a goal and an
assist for the Canadiens, who won their second in a row after a
nine-game winless streak. Marcel Hossa closed out the scoring in
the third period.

Florida goalie Roberto Luongo made 27 saves.

The victory moved Montreal to within three points of the
eighth-place New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference. The
Islanders have two games in hand. The Panthers remained six points
out of eighth place, but they also have played two more games than
the Islanders.

"Anything can happen. We still have 11 games left,'' Canadiens
center Mike Ribeiro said. "We had a bad streak of 10 games. Why
can't another team have a bad streak like that? We have to think
about ourselves and put the focus on ourselves.''

Florida's best scoring chance came late in the first period when
Viktor Kozlov beat Theodore on a wrist shot from the slot only to
have the shot bounce off the left post.

Ward's goal at 3:01 of the second period gave the Canadiens a
3-0 lead. Luongo stopped Wards backhand from in front of the net,
but Ward put the rebound to the left of the Florida goalie.

"Not playing last year, it's been a while,'' Ward said. "It
was nice to get one right away.''

Ward's goal came less than two minutes after Sundstrom gave the
Canadiens a 2-0 lead on a beautiful three-way passing play with Joe
Juneau and Andreas Dackell.

After taking a pass from Dackell behind the net, Juneau passed
to Sundstrom across the goal mouth. Sundstrom took the pass off his
skate before beating Luongo to the short side.

Perreault opened the scoring with his 21st goal of the season at
11:28 of the first period when he caught Luongo out of position on
a wrist shot from the boards. After grabbing a loose puck,
Perreault whirled around and fired a shot that beat Luongo to the
short side.

"It's very embarrassing,'' Luongo said. "I was looking at the
slot to see if a guy was open and they shot at the net. It really
caught me off guard. That's a tough goal to give up, especially in
the first period.

"When you give up a goal like that it cuts the guys' legs off a
little bit. I'm responsible and it's tough to bounce back after
that. I have to do a better job.''

Game notes
Defenseman Igor Kravchuk, signed Tuesday by Florida after
being out of the league all season, didn't play. ... Fans at the
Office Depot Center booed the Panthers during a couple of
second-period power plays. ... The Panthers have now failed to
score more than two goals in any of their last 10 games. ...
Florida has never led after the first period during its winless
home streak. ... Perreault snapped his streak of 14 games without a
goal.