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Canadiens cruise to end Canucks' 8-year hoodoo

THE Montreal Canadiens grabbed their first victory over the Vancouver Canucks in more than eight years on Tuesday, a 3-0 triumph built on Jaroslav Halak's 34 saves and Tomas Plekanec's two-point performance.

The victory was Montreal's first over Vancouver in 12 games since late 2000 and avenged the Canadiens' 2-4 loss in Vancouver nine days earlier. It also snapped a four-game Canucks' winning streak.

Plekanec raced in from center ice to push his 16th goal of the season past Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo with 1:18 left in the first period, then assisted on defenseman Andrei Markov's powerplay score in the second.

"I just wanted to go high with my shot and I guess I picked the right spot," Plekanec told reporters of his breakaway goal.

Maxim Lapierre added an empty-netter in the closing seconds of the game.

Halak's shut out was the fourth of his career, while Luongo wound up with 14 saves.

"Probably (my best game) this season," the 23-year-old Halak told reporters. "Sometimes the puck can look as small as a marble to a goalie or as big as a beach ball."

"Tonight, I was seeing the puck well. I got lucky a few times," the Slovak added.

One of the lucky ones came late in the third period when defenseman Patrice Brisebois halted a sliding puck that had got through Halak's pads and almost crossed the goal line.

"As soon as I saw it was about to go in, I didn't hesitate. I just got to that puck as soon as I could and got it out of there," Brisebois said.

"All of us defensemen talked about it ... we really wanted to get that zero for Jaro. That's what teamwork is all about and a game like this is going to be great for Jaro's confidence."

In Boston, the Bruins put their patchy recent form aside to thrash the Florida Panthers 6-1. Despite leading the Eastern Conference, the Bruins had won just one of their previous seven games entering this contest, including a defeat by the Panthers.

Florida goalie Craig Anderson let in the first shot he saw after less than a minute. That put Boston on track for an easy win which included two goals from rookie fourth-line winger Byron Bitz, only the second and third of his NHL career.

In Washington, Philadelphia scored three goals in 3-1/2 minutes of the third period to come from behind and beat Washington 4-2.

Philadelphia was the only Eastern Conference side that Capitals star Alex Ovechkin had not got a point against this season, but he set up the first goal and scored the second to end that record and put Washington up 2-0.

But the Flyers cut their deficit to 1-2 during a 5-on-3 midway through the second period, and then exploded in the third, with Scott Hartnell getting the equalizer and Jeff Carter the go-ahead goal.

It was a season-best fourth straight road win for the Flyers.

In Calgary, Alberta, Calgary won its third straight and moved ten points clear atop the Northwest Division with a 4-1 win over Columbus.

Jarome Iginla scored twice and added two assists, and Mike Cammelleri had a goal and two assists as the Flames' top two scorers combined for their biggest night together since a 10-point outburst on New Year's Eve.

In Nashville, Tennessee, Nashville came from 1-3 down at the start of the final period to beat Chicago 5-3.

Elsewhere in NHL, it was: Ducks 3, Sabres 2; Kings 2, Wild 1, OT; Senators 4, Hurricanes 2; Blues 2, Coyotes 1; Oilers 5, Lightning 3; and Thrashers 4, Avalanche 3.



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