The Canadiens, who missed the playoffs last season for the
fourth time in five years, tied New Jersey for sixth overall in the
Eastern Conference with 87 points. They have a 15-point lead over
ninth-place Buffalo, which has 10 games left.
"It was another big test for our team," Koivu said. "We've
gained some confidence by playing teams that are above us and we've
been successful. We're taking small steps but we're gaining some
ground and some confidence."
Koivu, who assisted on Yanic Perreault's first-period goal to
extend his point streak to six games, broke a 2-2 tie with a
backhander past goalie David Aebischer. Koivu's 14th goal helped
the Canadiens pull out a win after they squandered an early
Mike Ribeiro scored into an empty net with 49 seconds remaining.
"They came back to make it 2-2 and we're finding the way to win
some games now," Ribeiro said. "We played a good game."
Rookie forward Michael Ryder also scored for the Canadiens, who
won their second straight. Montreal, which beat Toronto 4-3 on
Saturday, has lost just once in regulation in 12 games (10-1-0-1).
"The last 10 days or two weeks we haven't played our best, but
every game the goalie's done their job and then we've found a way
to win some games," Koivu said.
Colorado had a season-high, four-game winning streak snapped,
losing for the first time since a 7-1 defeat to Calgary on March 7.
"(Theodore) was really good," Avalanche captain Joe Sakic
said. "He made some huge saves for them at the end. We had our
chances. Everybody worked pretty hard on both sides and
unfortunately they won the game."
Theodore drew a huge cheer when he stopped Colorado's
John-Michael Liles following Koivu's goal to protect the lead.
"I felt pretty good tonight and I was just trying to make as
many saves as I can," Theodore said. "When I saw that the score
was 3-2 for us I knew that we were in a good situation so I just
tried to keep it that way."
It was Montreal's first win over the Avalanche since Dec. 8,
1997, ending an eight-game winless streak (0-6-2) against Colorado.
"They're a good transition team and they wait for you to make
mistakes in the neutral zone, and they're quick," Konowalchuk
said. "I thought it was a pretty good game but the difference was
they scored a couple of power-play goals."
Ryder scored his 22nd goal on a power play 12:25 in when he took
a pass from Ribeiro and beat Aebischer from the left edge of the
Perreault, who also assisted on Koivu's goal, made it a two-goal
lead 1:42 later, scoring for the third straight game at 14:07.
Blake drew Colorado within 2-1 at 16:54 with a slap shot from
the point for his 13th goal.
Gratton combined with linemates Konowalchuk and Matthew Barnaby
to finish off a pretty three-way passing play to tie it midway
through the second period.
Barnaby set up the play with a pass from the right side to
Konowalchuk in front of the net. Konowalchuk quickly fed the puck
to Gratton, who scored his 12th of the season -- his first in four
games with the Avalanche since he was acquired from Phoenix just
before last week's trade deadline.
Colorado's streak was its longest since a six-game run from
Jan. 30-Feb. 11, 2003. ... Koivu has three goals and six assists
over the course of his streak. ... Canadiens RW Richard Zednik had
a seven-game point streak broken. Zednik had six goals and six
assists in that span. ... Montreal RW Pierre Dagenais was benched
for a third straight game. C Joe Juneau and RW Jason Ward also
didn't play for the Canadiens.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: Bell Centre Location: Montreal, Quebec
Referees: Stephane Auger, Stephen Walkom Linesmen: Steve Barton, Jean Morin
Attendance: 21,273 (100.0% full)
Team Stat Comparison
Power Play Goals
Power Play Opportunities
Shots on Goal
Michael Ryder (22)
(Power Play) Assists: Mike Ribeiro, Francis Bouillon
Yanic Perreault (14)
Assists: Saku Koivu, Patrice Brisebois
Rob Blake (12)
(Power Play) Assists: John-Michael Liles, Steve Konowalchuk
Chris Gratton (11)
Assists: Steve Konowalchuk, Matthew Barnaby
Saku Koivu (14)
(Power Play) Assists: Alex Kovalev, Yanic Perreault
Mike Ribeiro (20)
(Empty Net) Assists: Michael Ryder, Alex Kovalev