for this game

Higgins nets pair as Canadiens top Maple Leafs

Apr 6, 2008 - 3:13 AM
MONTREAL (Ticker) -- Christopher Higgins scored twice and defenseman Mark Streit had a goal and an assist as the Montreal Canadiens continued their pursuit of the top spot in the Eastern Conference with a 3-1 triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday in a battle of "Original Six" rivals.

Rookie Carey Price finished with 26 saves for Montreal (47-25-10), which improved to 7-1-0 in its last eight games and moved past idle Pittsburgh (47-26-8) for first place in the East with 104 points.

The Penguins, who play their season finale Sunday in Philadelphia, must defeat the Flyers to claim the top spot and subsequent home-ice advantage throughout the conference playoffs by virtue of having more wins than the Canadiens.

"It would be great (to win the conference), but they don't really hang conference banners in this rink, they hang Stanley Cup banners," Price said. "It would be kind of nice to get it, but everyone here knows what the ultimate prize is."

Regardless of whether it finishes first or second, Montreal's conference quarterfinals opponent will be another "Original Six" rival in Boston. The Canadiens swept the eight-game season series this campaign and have defeated the Bruins 11 straight times.

"We've played well so far against Boston," Streit said. "But it's the playoffs and every team starts from zero.

"From the first puck drop, we're going to have to step it up, even if we've had good games against them in the regular season. It starts all over again and we need our A game."

Mark Bell scored the lone goal for Toronto, which closed out the campaign with a 1-4-1 record to miss the playoffs for a third consecutive time.

"It happened pretty quick, we had a little too long to dwell on the fact that it's (the season) going to end early for us," Toronto goaltender Andrew Raycroft said. "Then all of a sudden it's here, we have nothing to do tomorrow morning. It sneaks up on you, but we've had a long time to think about it."

With the Maple Leafs' season over, Raycroft is set to take some time away from the game.

"I'm not going to think about hockey for a while now," he said. "I won't be watching playoff games, I won't be watching highlights, I won't be watching talk shows, I won't be listening to the radio."

Streit opened the scoring exactly nine minutes into the second period, wristing a shot from inside the blue line that beat Raycroft just inside the right goalpost for his 13th of the season.

"I think it's good for us to get some rest. We have some guys banged up, so the rest would be good for everybody," Streit said of the upcoming off-days. "Reset our focus. The regular season is done and the playoffs are starting,so it's going to be a new mind set and everybody is excited.

"It's going to be some really long days because I'm sure the guys can't wait to start the playoffs."

Higgins doubled the advantage just over five minutes later, accepting a cross-ice feed from Streit and unleashing a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle that beat Raycroft.

Bell halved the deficit nearly four minutes later, when he received a backhand pass from Kris Newbury and beat Price with 1:58 remaining in the period for his fourth goal of the season and second in as many games.

Higgins restored the two-goal cushion 7:28 into the third period. After taking a feed from Bryan Smolinski, he fired the puck past Raycroft for his second tally of the game and 27th of the campaign.

"I've played some of my better hockey over the last stretch," Higgins said. "I finished strong because it's the most fun time of the year to be playing."

That was more than enough offense for the 20-year-old Price, who improved to 12-3-0 with a pair of shutouts since taking over as the team's top goaltender after Cristobal Huet was traded to Washington on February 26.

As for Toronto's plight, Darcy Tucker summed it up best.

"You don't make the playoffs, especially with the expectations that come with playing in Toronto, so yes, it's disappointing," he said.








  • NHL
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    TORONTO 0 1 0 1
    MONTREAL 0 2 1 3 FINAL
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    2ND PRD: MON - MARK STREIT 13 (ALEXEI KOVALEV, TOMAS PLEKANEC) 9:00
    MON - CHRIS HIGGINS 26 (MARK STREIT, RYAN O'BYRNE) 14:03
    TOR - MARK BELL 4 (KRIS NEWBURY, JASON BLAKE) 18:02
    3RD PRD: MON - (PP) CHRIS HIGGINS 2

    Apr 5 9:41 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 1
    MONTREAL 3
    3RD PRD: MON - (PP) CHRIS HIGGINS 27 (BRYAN SMOLINSKI, ANDREI MARKOV)
    7:29

    Maple Leafs 1, Canadiens 3  3rd - 12:31Apr 5 9:19 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 2ND 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    TORONTO 0 1 1
    MONTREAL 0 2 2 END OF THE 2ND
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    2ND PRD: MON - MARK STREIT 13 (ALEXEI KOVALEV, TOMAS PLEKANEC) 9:00
    MON - CHRIS HIGGINS 26 (MARK STREIT, RYAN O'BYRNE) 14:03
    TOR - MARK BELL 4 (KRIS NEWBURY, JASON BLAKE) 18:02
    SHOTS ON GOAL:

    Apr 5 8:44 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 1
    MONTREAL 2
    2ND PRD: TOR - MARK BELL 4 (KRIS NEWBURY, JASON BLAKE) 18:02

    Maple Leafs 1, Canadiens 2  2nd - 1:58Apr 5 8:40 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 0
    MONTREAL 2
    2ND PRD: MON - CHRIS HIGGINS 26 (MARK STREIT, RYAN O'BYRNE) 14:03

    Maple Leafs 0, Canadiens 2  2nd - 5:57Apr 5 8:34 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 0
    MONTREAL 1
    2ND PRD: MON - MARK STREIT 13 (ALEXEI KOVALEV, TOMAS PLEKANEC) 9:00

    Maple Leafs 0, Canadiens 1  2nd - 11:00Apr 5 8:25 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 1ST 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    TORONTO 0 0
    MONTREAL 0 0 END OF THE 1ST
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    TOR 8 8
    MON 12 12
    GOALIES: TOR - ANDREW RAYCROFT
    MON - CAREY PRICE

    Apr 5 7:50 PM
  • 10
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    OddyOh Added 5 roots

    Maple Leafs vs. CanadiensApr 5 9:25 AM
  • 5
    roots
    bobstephen198 Added 5 roots

    Maple Leafs vs. CanadiensOct 12 3:51 AM