Canadiens play to win

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Les Canadiens made tourtiere out of a bland and spiritless Maple Leafs squad last night.

All season, Leafs coach Ron Wilson has taken pride in the fact that his under-manned team has played hard every night, even when they lose.

But as the end of the regular season draws near, the Leafs suddenly seem to be gearing down.

Following an 8-5 drubbing in Philadelphia on Friday, Toronto returned to the Air Canada Centre last night and allowed the Montreal Canadiens to run roughshod over them.

The Habs, playing to maintain their playoff position in the Eastern Conference, jumped on the Leafs early and often, charging ahead 4-0 after two periods en route to a 6-2 victory.

The loss was the Leafs' fourth in their past five games. They have been out-scored 7-0 in the first period in the past two games.

The one highlight for the Leafs came in the third period when former Hab Mikhail Grabovski flattened Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov into the end boards, and was given two minors and a 10-minute misconduct for his efforts, though the hit was shoulder to shoulder. Grabovski was then jumped by Montreal winger Mathieu Dandenault. The Belarus native, who played 24 games for Montreal last season, has a hate on for his former team the size of the CN Tower and almost always gets into some kind of physical confrontation when the two teams play, even though his two countrymen on the Canadiens, Sergei and Andrei Kostitsyn, whom Grabovski does not appreciate at all, were not in the lineup.

"Against me, the Montreal players, they punch me and put sticks in my groin and legs, but no penalties," Grabovski said. "I play very clean, the hit was on (Markov's) shoulder, but the referee gave me a penalty.

"Everybody knows playing Montreal is a special game for me," said Grabovski, who also picked up a slashing penalty in the third. "(But) I just try to play, not boxing or wrestling, just a (hockey) game. I like clean hockey."

Grabovski was one of the few Leafs that Wilson praised afterward, calling out some of his veteran forwards for not playing with any heart.

"Grabbo can play for me any time. I wish we had some more guys who showed that much heart and courage as Grabbo does every single night," Wilson said. "No matter if he gets cut, hit, down and out, he comes right back. You can't stop him.

"This poor kid has been through enough with (Montreal) this year and he was just about the only courageous guy we had (last night)."

As was the case in Philadelphia, Toronto starter Martin Gerber was largely left unsupported and didn't have much of a chance on most of the Montreal goals, three of which came on the power play, a part of the game the Canadiens have excelled in the last three games, having scored eight during that span.

"We have to pull ourselves together for the last three games and try to get more engaged in our own end and make little plays -- block a shot or whatever it takes, just something small to help out and then go from there," Gerber said. "We have to start building something again."

John Mitchell and Boyd Devereaux scored for Toronto, while Alex Kovalev had a goal and three assists to pace Montreal's attack. The Canadiens lost two defencemen to injuries during the game, Markov and Mathieu Schneider, who left with an upper body injury in the second period.

Toronto defenceman Jay Harrison picked up his first point of the season, an assist on Mitchell's goal, and also took on Habs heavyweight Georges Laraque in the second period. The Canadiens felt that Toronto defenceman Pavel Kubina should have been tossed out of the game for jumping Laraque during that altercation.

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA

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REPLAY

TAKE A SEAT

Forward Lee Stempniak was a scratch for last night's game. Jeff Hamilton, who was a scratch on Friday in Philadelphia, dressed in his place.

PRICE SITS OUT

Carey Price, the Canadiens' regular starting goalie, took part in the morning skate at the ACC yesterday, but was not well enough to back up Jaroslav Halak. Marc Denis was the backup. Price has missed the last two games with the flu.

EXCITING PLAY

Luke Schenn gave the puck away to Guillaume Latendresse at mid-ice in the second period and then hooked the Habs' forward as he barrelled in on Toronto goaltender Martin Gerber. On the insuing penalty shot, Gerber made a nice blocker save on Latendresse.

SCHNEDIER HURT

Montreal defenceman Mathieu Schneider left the game in the second period with an upper body injury.


Photos