|TOR||2||2||1||(0 - 0)||5|
|MTL||0||2||0||(0 - 0)||2|
MONTREAL (CP) -- Nikolai Kulemin got just the gift he wanted for his newborn son Alexei - a goal and a big victory over the Canadiens in Montreal.
Kulemin had a goal and two assists while linemates Alexei Ponikarovsky and Mikhail Grabovski had four points each as the Toronto Maple Leafs played playoff spoiler with a 5-2 victory over the slumping Canadiens on Saturday night.
``I was really excited (Friday) when my son was born and I just wanted to play a good game and score goals, and that's what we did,'' said Kulemin, using Ponikarovsky as his translator. ``Basically, I try to do that every night.
``Some nights it's not there, but I try my best.''
Ponikarovsky scored twice and Grabovski and Jason Blake had the other goals for Toronto (30-30-13), which has won four of its last six games but remains eight points out of playoff position in the NHL's Eastern Conference.
Maxim Lapierre scored twice for Montreal (36-27-9), which is now 1-3-2 since general manager Bob Gainey stepped in behind the bench after firing coach Guy Carbonneau. The Canadiens have lost five in a row for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
In this one, they went to pieces after the Kulemin line spotted the Leafs an early 2-0 lead. Gainey said he would have chats with ``certain players'' on Sunday to try to get the team going.
``The NHL is a lot about momentum and we don't have it now, or we have it, but it's going in the wrong direction,'' said Gainey. ``We've allowed it to go against us.
``Until it's stopped, until we have more players playing better for a bigger chunk of a 60-minute game, we'll continue to have problems.''
The Canadiens remained in the eighth and final playoff spot because Florida, which is one point behind, lost 3-1 to Columbus after wasting a late 1-0 lead.
Ponikarovsky also had two assists for his second four-point game in his last four contests. He has nine points over that span. Grabovski had a goal and three assists for his first four-point game. The Belarusian has four goals and four assists in his last four games.
With 21 goals, Ponikarovsky has tied his career high set in 2005-06 and 2006-07.
``I don't consider myself hot,'' he said. ``I'm just trying to play my game and see what happens.
``We had a lot of jump. We tried to play a simple game, support each other on the boards and use speed out wide, and put pucks at the net.''
It was a satisfying night for Grabovski, who was traded by Montreal to the Leafs for a draft pick last summer.
And coach Ron Wilson called it ``easily the best game Kulemin has played for us. Maybe having a son the other night made him realize he has responsibilities.
``They talk a lot of Russian on the bench. There's no miscommunication. Ponikarovsky does a great job of backing up what I say when he talks to that line.''
Kulemin missed Toronto's last game while his wife had the baby. When asked at the Leafs' pre-game skate if he would score a goal for the newborn, he answered ``a couple.''
Then he nearly did it in the first period.
He had Toronto's first shot on a rush, and Jaroslav Halak nearly put the rebound into his own net with the stick. Video replay was inconclusive and the goal was waived off.
But at 7:51, Grabovski was battling with Ryan O'Byrne at the Montreal blue-line when Ponikarovsky picked up the loose puck and fed Kulemin for a shot into an open side.
Only 23 seconds later on the same shift, Grabovski's tightly angled shot from the left wing went off O'Byrne's stick and fooled Halak for a 2-0 lead on only five shots.
The onslaught continued in the second as Ponikarovsky's weak wrist shot got through Halak at 3:09 and Ponikarovsky shovelled in Kulemin's rebound on a power play at 9:09.
Then Gainey shuffled his lines and it produced a pair of goals, as Lapierre redirected a Chris Higgins pass into the top corner at 12:50 and then converted a feed from Alex Tanguay at 15:22 to bring the crowd back in the game.
But only 4:21 into the third period, Guillaume Latendresse was sent off for high-sticking and Grabovski fed Blake for a high shot from the left circle to score his 25th of the season.
That got the crowd of 21,273 booing again and chanting ``Car-bo, Car-bo'' for the fired coach for the rest of the game.
The list of those Gainey talks to could be long. Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn and Alex Kovalev were all minus-2. Captain Saku Koivu had a quiet night, although he won 71 per cent of his faceoffs. Halak was weak on two goals.
But Lapierre was plus-2 with seven shots on goal.
The trend of one-sided games between the old rivals continued. Earlier this season, the Leafs had wins of 6-3 and 5-2 against Montreal, while the Canadiens beat Toronto 6-1 and 6-2.
Notes: The Canadiens wore their jerseys from 1915-16, the deep red one with CA (Club Athletique Canadien) instead of CH on the front. It was never worn against the Leafs, but Montreal was 5-1 in it against their predecessors, the Toronto Blueshirts. . . Gainey toyed with sitting out Mike Komisarek and Andrei Kostitsyn, but both were in the lineup. Scratched were Matt D'Agostini, Greg Stewart, Mathieu Danadenault and Patrice Brisebois . . . Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle will have to wait a little longer before returning after X-rays showed his injured right hand needs more time to heal.
|Nikolai Kulemin (12) Wrist shot - ASST: Alexei Ponikarovsky (31), Mikhail Grabovski (20)|
1 - 0 TOR
|Mikhail Grabovski (18) Slapshot - ASST: Alexei Ponikarovsky (32), Luke Schenn (9)|
2 - 0 TOR
|Alexei Ponikarovsky (20) Wrist shot - ASST: Mikhail Grabovski (21), Nikolai Kulemin (13)|
3 - 0 TOR
|PPG - Alexei Ponikarovsky (21) Backhand shot - ASST: Nikolai Kulemin (14), Pavel Kubina (26)|
4 - 0 TOR
|Maxim Lapierre (13) Wrist shot - ASST: Chris Higgins (9)|
4 - 1 TOR
|Maxim Lapierre (14) Wrist shot - ASST: Alex Tanguay (19), Ryan O'Byrne (5)|
4 - 2 TOR
|PPG - Jason Blake (25) Wrist shot - ASST: Mikhail Grabovski (22), Anton Stralman (12)|
5 - 2 TOR
|Jeff Finger Roughing against Ryan O'Byrne|
|Max Pacioretty Hooking against Mikhail Grabovski|
|Mike Komisarek Roughing against John Mitchell|
|Mike Komisarek Roughing against John Mitchell|
|Maxim Lapierre Roughing against Luke Schenn|
|John Mitchell Roughing against Mike Komisarek|
|Luke Schenn Roughing against Maxim Lapierre|
|Guillaume Latendresse Tripping against Jeff Finger|
|Mathieu Schneider Boarding against Jeff Hamilton|
|Jason Blake Delay of game|
|Guillaume Latendresse Hi-sticking against John Mitchell|
|Ian White Hi-sticking against Andrei Kostitsyn|
|SA: 28||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 26||EV: 23 - 25|
|PIM: 0||PP: 3 - 3|
|SV%: .929||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 37||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 32||EV: 18 - 21|
|PIM: 0||PP: 13 - 15|
|SV%: .865||SH: 1 - 1|