Final

Series (Game 1 of 1)

Montreal leads 1-0

Game 1: Saturday, March 6th
Canadiens4Final
Kings2

Canadiens 4

(36-26-2, 80 pts)

Kings 2

(25-19-7, 73 pts)

10:00 PM ET, March 6, 2004

STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, California

1 2 3 T
MTL 0 2 24
LA 0 1 12

M. Garon (Canadiens - G): Saves: 46, Save Pct.: .958

R. Zednik (Canadiens - RW): Goals: 2, Assists: 1

E. Belanger (Kings - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

L.A. falls to Montreal; St. Louis within two

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Montreal goaltender Mathieu Garon saw his first action in two weeks and looked as if he hadn't missed a beat.

Garon made a career-high 46 saves and Richard Zednik had two goals and an assist in the Canadiens' 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.

"We know the strength of our team this season has been in the nets," coach Claude Julien said after his team was outshot 48-24. "Everybody knows Jose Theodore, but we have called on Garon against some of the better teams in the league and he has come up big every time."

Garon made his first start since Feb. 21 at Toronto, when he was benched after giving up three goals on 11 shots. He stopped 17 shots in each of the last two periods and got help from the goalpost three times.

Jaroslav Modry hit the left post during a power play about 8½ into the game and drilled the right post with 7:43 to play. Ian Laperriere also hit the post with 4:06 left.

"That was the best 60-minute effort I have seen from a team this year," Julien said. "They came out hard, and we had our hands full all night. But our goaltender kept us in the game."

The only part of Garon's game that appeared rusty after his seven-game layoff was his stickhandling. Less than three minutes in, he went behind the net to clear the puck and put it right onto Sean Avery's stick. But Garon got back in the crease just in time to make a spectacular glove save on Joe Corvo's wrist shot from the slot.

"Sometimes it's just easier to face a lot of shots because you see the puck well and it keeps you in the game," Garon said. "They played a great game, all four lines, and put a lot of shots on net."

Montreal won for the seventh time in eight games despite missing injured forwards Niklas Sundstrom and Alexei Kovalev, who separated his shoulder in his first game with the Canadiens. Steve Begin and Yanic Perreault had a goal and an assist apiece, and Saku Koivu had two assists.

Eric Belanger and Trent Klatt scored for the Kings, who dressed five players 21 or younger. One was rookie Dustin Brown, who played only three of the previous 44 games because of a sprained left ankle.

The Kings' lead over the Blues for eighth in the West fell to just two points. St. Louis topped the New York Islanders 4-2 Saturday.

The Canadiens, outshot 12-5 in the first period, broke through at 5:02 of the second when newly acquired Jim Dowd found Begin alone at the left of the crease. It was the eighth goal for Begin, whose previous best was seven in 2001-02 with Calgary.

Perreault made it 2-0 just 74 seconds later with his 12th goal during a scramble in front after Modry failed to clear a rebound of Zednik's shot. It was the 400th NHL point for Perreault, who had 156 with the Kings.

Laperriere set up the Kings' first goal with a wrist shot from above the left circle that couldn't be cleared by defenseman Craig Rivet after Garon made the save with his outstretched left leg. Belanger pounced on the bouncing puck and scored his 12th goal at 17:25 of the second period.

"All you can ask of your team is that they put in a solid work ethic and play with structure, and we did both things," Kings coach Andy Murray said. "Unfortunately, we were soft three times in the defensive zone and it cost us the game."

Zednik restored Montreal's two-goal margin with 4:49 left, carrying the puck out from behind the net and stuffing his rebound under Cristobal Huet's pads for his 22nd goal.

"That was just a great play by Zednik," Perreault said. "He's real strong, and he has the ability to beat guys one-on-one. He just kept going until he scored."

Klatt got his 16th goal on a power play with 33 seconds left, after Garon was assessed a delay-of-game penalty. But Zednik scored into an empty net with two seconds left.

Game notes


Garon won his fifth straight decision. ... Kings G Roman Cechmanek, sidelined six games because of a groin injury, practiced Saturday morning for the first time since getting injured. He is expected to be out at least another 1½ weeks. ... This is the third time the Kings will not play in Montreal. They weren't there in 2000-01 or during the lockout-abbreviated 1994-95 campaign. ... The Kings are 27-82-20 against Montreal, their worst mark against an "Original Six" team. ... The Kings are 2-4-1 when they record at east 40 shots.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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