Habs' stars steal the show

MIKE RUTSEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

When your best players are your best players, a team usually comes out on top.

The best players on the ice in last night's Maple Leafs-Canadiens clash was no contest -- it was the Montreal tandem of Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev.

The best player on the Leafs?

Was there one?

Koivu and Kovalev, though, were killers and played last night from the very first shift like they wanted to win.

So it was no surprise when Koivu was allowed to walk out from the corner untouched and bang his own rebound under Mikael Tellqvist at 1:04 of the overtime period to give Montreal the extra point in their 4-3 triumph.

It was Koivu's second goal of the night and third point while it was Kovalev that got the Habs started when he tied the game 1-1 with his 11th of the season 72 seconds into the second period.

"The way things have been going for us it's more than just a game in the schedule," Koivu said of coming out on top in the final game of a gruelling six-game trip.

STEP THINGS UP

"When you lose a few games (they had dropped four of five), key players have to step up."

It's something Montreal coach Bob Gainey expects of the two stars.

"Normally that's what we go back to when things aren't going well," he said. "We shift the responsibility to those players and they know it, and I think they feel the weight of that responsibility.

"I think you could see from our guys, from Kovalev and Koivu, their expression of joy and relief in scoring and helping the team win. It's the role they have to take, and when they go, everybody else goes."

Although it was Koivu's overtime goal that ended things, it was Kovalev's goal that tied it 1-1.

For a team that had been blanked 3-0 by the Ottawa Senators two days ago and had been out-shot 40-12, it gave them newfound life and energy.

"Koivu made a really nice play to Alex who scored the goal," Gainey said. "It wears on those guys when they're not scoring."

Last night they were at their best and, in the end, they were the difference.


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