By Corey Witt
An outstanding effort in net by Rick DiPietro held the Canadiens to just one goal on 35 shots Tuesday, but it wasn't enough to earn a win, as Chris Higgins' first-period goal stood up as the game-winner in a 2-0 Montreal victory.
Before the game, there was a playoff feeling throughout the whole building. Islanders rookie defenseman Bruno Gervais, a native of nearby Longueuil, QB, made his Bell Centre debut. Paired with fellow French-Canadian D-man Joel Bouchard, he helped form a Long Island version of the French Connection.
The Canadiens got on the board early when Higgins, a Long Island native and Islanders killer, buried the puck past DiPietro at 7:40 of the open stanza. Higgins got the puck from Saku Koivu, who slid the puck right to the doorstep. Michael Ryder got the secondary assist on the play. Moments before the goal, a sprawling DiPietro stopped point-blank shots by Ryder and then Higgins seconds later. The play continued with the puck being shuffled into the corner and then around to Ryder for the eventual goal.
Things got heated with a little over five minutes remaining in the first when Eric Godard ran into Habs goaltender Christobal Huet. No penalty was called on the play as is it occurred by Huets right faceoff circle. Subsequently though, Habs defenseman Mike Komisarek challenged Godard to fight and before Godard could properly accept, started to punch. The fight was broken up quickly and the end result was a five-minute power play for the Islanders. Komisarek was kicked out of the game with a two-minute minor for instigating, five-minute major for fighting, a ten-minute misconduct and a game-misconduct. Godard received two minutes for roughing.
On the power play, the Islanders never got a real scoring chance, as Montreal was able to kill of the entire penalty.
At the start of the second period, the Islanders had one of their best scoring chance of the night when Montreals Todd Simpson gave the puck away to Wyatt Smith. Skating in alone on Huet from the corner, Smith shot the puck into Huets pads.
With Godard in the box for hooking midway through the second, the Habs almost found the back of the net. Ryder fired a slap shot from the blueline, which DiPietro kicked out with his right pad. The rebound went to Andrei Markov, who had more then half the net wide open to shoot at. He wristed the puck wide left of the net, as the Islanders were able to kill off the rest of the power play.
The third period left the scoreboard unchanged until the final second, when an empty-net goal by Radek Bonk made it 2-0. The Islanders had a chance to tie it up with a 6-on-4 manpower edge in the 20th minute, thanks to a delay-of-game penalty on Craig Rivet, but couldn't beat Huet.
NOTES: C Mike York (eye) remained on Long Island and is day-to-day...D Francis Bouillon, C Jan Bulis, RW Aaron Downey and RW Niklas Sundstrom were scratched for Montreal...Komisarek is also a Long Island native...For the 54th consecutive game, the Canadiens sold out the Bell Centre, with 21,273 fans.
21 Robert Nilsson 79 Alexei Yashin 10 Sean Bergenheim
7 Trent Hunter 17 Shawn Bates 81 Miroslav Satan
15 Jeff Tambellini 28 Wyatt Smith 55 Jason Blake
49 Eric Godard 27 Jeremy Colliton 26 Rob Collins
14 Chris Campoli 24 Radek Martinek
4 Joel Bouchard 6 Bruno Gervais
3 Denis Grebeshkov 44 John Erskine
(39) Rick DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow