Surging Canadiens roll to easy victory over Leafs

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TORONTO (AP) -- Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves, and Alex Kovalev

had a goal and three assists in the Montreal Canadiens' 6-2

victory over Toronto on Saturday night.

After dropping a 5-2 decision to Toronto two weeks ago in

Montreal, the Canadiens have gone 5-0-1 to move five points

clear of ninth-place Florida in the race for one of the eight

Eastern Conference playoff spots.

Guillaume Latendresse, Alex Tanguay, Chris Higgins, Maxim

Lapierre and Josh Gorges also scored for Montreal. John Mitchell

and Boyd Devereaux scored for Toronto.

Halak wasn't tested often in earning his 18th victory of the

season, although he made a nice save on Mikhail Grabovski in the

second period. The Slovak goalie was backed up by AHL callup

Marc Denis with Carey Price sidelined by the flu.

Kovalev opened the scoring at 6:11 of the first period with a

beautiful wrist shot that found a narrow gap above Martin

Gerber's shoulder. Latendresse then converted from in-close just

over two minutes later and the Habs were off and running.

The large group of Montreal fans in attendance at Air Canada

Centre responded in kind, sending up chants of "Let's go Habs!

Let's go Habs!"

They were given even more reason to cheer late in the period as

Georges Laraques ran over defenseman Jay Harrison before getting

in a good punch or two when the pair squared off.

Latendresse had a chance to extend Montreal's lead when he was

awarded a penalty shot early in the second period, but Gerber

got his body in front of the shot. It was the second straight

game a Habs player failed to convert a penalty shot - Tom

Kostopoulos was turned away on Long Island on Thursday night.

It mattered little as Tanguay converted a great pass from

captain Saku Koivu at 7:29 to make it 3-0. Kovalev also earned

an assist on the goal as all three members of the red-hot line

continued to pile up points.

Gerber was furious after Higgins made it 4-0 at 8:59. The goalie

had been sparring with Tomas Plekanec moments before getting

beaten with a wrist shot.

Toronto ended Halak's shutout bid 2:11 into the third period

when Mitchell tipped home a shot, but any comeback hopes didn't

last long. Lapierre and Gorges scored power-play goals less than

three minutes apart to ice the win.

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