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NHL Game Summary - NY Islanders at Montreal

(Tuesday, March 13th)

Final Score: Montreal 5, NY Islanders 3

Montreal, QC (Sports Network) - Guillaume Latendresse scored twice and Chris Higgins netted the game-winning goal midway through the third period to lift the Montreal Canadiens to an important 5-3 win over the New York Islanders at Bell Centre.

Michael Ryder also scored for Montreal, which has won two straight after a four-game skid and now sit -- along with the New York Rangers -- two points behind the Islanders and Hurricanes for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Toronto, with 77 points, leads the Canadiens and Rangers by one point.

David Aebischer registered 24 saves in the win.

Ryan Smyth scored on a penalty shot while Marc-Andre Bergeron and Alexei Yashin also scored for New York, which fell to 1-2-1 in its last four games.

New York goaltender Rick DiPietro started the game but left in the first period with what appeared to be a head injury. DiPietro and Montreal forward Steve Begin collided and Begin's skate struck DiPietro in the head. He was helped off the ice and did not return. Mike Dunham allowed five goals on 32 shots in relief.

"He was groggy after the hit that he took," said Islanders coach Ted Nolan. "Our doctors will examine him for a concussion tomorrow."

This marked the second game that New York has played without the services of forward Chris Simon, who last Thursday issued a vicious two-handed spear with his stick directly to the face of Rangers center Ryan Hollweg. Following a hearing by the NHL on the incident, Simon was suspended for the remainder of the regular season and the Stanley Cup playoffs if the Islanders qualify.

Simon will miss a minimum of 25 games, a sentence which began with Saturday's win over Washington. If the Islanders miss the playoffs or compete in less than 10 postseason games, Simon would sit out additional games at the start of next season until the full 25-game mark is reached. It is the longest suspension in league history.

With the contest tied 3-3, the Canadiens took the lead for good on Higgins' 18th goal of the season. Andrei Kastsitsyn held the puck along the rear boards behind the net and sent a great saucer pass through Bergeron and onto the stick of Higgins for a successful redirection from the top of the crease near the left post with 8:34 remaining in regulation.

"My line scored some pretty big goals tonight," said Higgins, who battled the flu during the game. "It was a character win by everyone, a huge win. We need a win streak...to build around the 12 games that are left."

Tomas Plekanec's 17th goal in the waning minutes capped the scoring. Plekanec converted on a 2-on-1 with Kastsitsyn, who sent a perfect blind backhand pass to Plekanec from the lower right circle.

The home team was won nine of the last 12 meetings in this series.

Yashin opened the scoring with his 14th goal midway through the first period. Miroslav Satan carried the puck over the blue line and slid a soft backhand pass to Yashin along the left half-wall. Yashin cut toward the top of the circle and unloaded a blistering slap shot that beat Aebischer at the 9:35 mark.

Early in the second period, the Isles moved ahead by two when Smyth converted a penalty shot attempt. Bergeron sent a perfect outlet pass from his own goal line through the neutral zone for Smyth, who corralled the disc and skated in on a clear breakaway before Sheldon Souray hauled him down from behind. Referee Greg Kimmerly immediately signaled for the penalty shot, and Smyth used a simple backhand deke move to beat Aebischer under the pads at 1:09.

Later in the second period, the Canadiens tied the score with a pair of goals within a six-minute span.

First, at 6:54, Latendresse's 14th goal cut the Montreal deficit in half. Michael Ryder carried the puck along the right half-wall and avoided the body check of Brendan Witt to create a 2-on-1. From beneath the circle, Ryder slid a pass across the goal mouth for an easy tap-in by Latendresse at the right post.

Two New York penalties in under a minute created a 5-on-3 for the Habs and they cashed in with 7:18 remaining. With Jason Blake and Richard Park in the box for roughing and hooking, respectively, Montreal worked the puck around the perimeter with ease until Souray held control at the right point. Souray then passed across the high slot to Andrei Markov, who quickly fed it to Ryder along the goal line and he lit the lamp from a sharp angle near the right post.

With under five minutes to play before the second intermission, the visitors regained the lead. Following a pad save by Aebischer, Smyth held control behind the net and passed into the low slot for Park, who whiffed on a one- timer. Bergeron, who pinched in from the right point, punched home the loose puck from the top of the crease.

A strange goal by Latendresse midway through the third knotted the contest at three apiece. He accepted a pass from Plekanec in the slot and sent a quick wrist shot past the left shoulder of Dunham. However, the puck went in and out of the net so fast that the goal light did not go on and play was not stopped. Latendresse held up his arms to signify the tally and moments later the play was reviewed after a stoppage on the ice. Replay officials confirmed that the puck clearly crossed the goal line.

Game Notes

This marked the opening of a four-game road trip for the Islanders, who fell to 15-14-5 on the road this season...The Habs finished 1-for-8 on the power play and held the Isles scoreless on their four chances with the extra skater...DiPietro made eight saves before he left the game...Attendance was 21,273.

03/13 23:52:49 ET

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