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Bourque responds to benching, helps Habs top Leafs

The SportsXchange

TORONTO -- Montreal Canadiens right winger Rene Bourque received his coach's message loud and clear. Bourque was a healthy scratch for five games due to his poor play.

On Saturday, Bourque scored his first goal since Feb. 4 and added an assist.

"He really responded well, which is what you want from a player out there," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "He was hungry, he went to the net and made some good plays. He was solid."

Center Tomas Plekanec picked up the game-winner at 11:14 of the third period as the Canadiens edged the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3.

The win gives Montreal a five-point cushion on Toronto in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Leafs are hanging on to the first wild-card spot by a single point over the Detroit Red Wings, who defeated the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.

"Any time you beat Toronto, it's a big two points for us," said Bourque. "It was a close game. Every time we've played them this year it's been down to the wire so it's nice to get a big goal late like that by Pleky and get the two points."

Plekanec scored following a controversial goalie interference penalty assed to Leafs left winger James van Riemsdyk, who was pushed into Montreal goaltender Carey Price by Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov.

"I got interfered with?" reasoned Price post-game. "It's contact to my head, so I thought it was a penalty, personally."

On the ensuing power play, Plekanec gave Montreal the lead, putting his shot in off Leafs goalie James Reimer for his 18th goal of the season at 11:14 of the third period.

"That's a huge game. Them right on our heels, it's a four-point swing," said Canadiens right winger Brian Gionta. "No one wants to take too much of a chance in a big game like this. You're not going to run around and get into penalty trouble. Both teams want to win the game -- it's a playoff atmosphere."

Left winger Max Pacioretty and Gionta had the other goals for Montreal (39-26-7).

Winger Joffrey Lupul and centers Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri scored the goals for Toronto (36-28-8).

Price made 33 saves for his sixth win in seven starts.

Reimer, who lost his three previous starts while posting a 3.76 goals-against-average, made 32 saves in the loss.

"I think just a healthy sense of urgency," said Reimer following the Leafs' fourth straight regulation loss. "We got a couple tough bounces against us and we didn't get many for us. It was a close game. It was a close, playoff-style hockey game and they just got the bounces. Sometimes that's how games are decided.

With the win, Montreal won four of five. Toronto's skid matches a season-worst.

Kadri tied it at 3 at 2:49 of the third period on a power play, one-timing a Lupul feed short-side on Price for his 18th goal of the season. The goal tied his career high and snapping a six-game slump without a goal. Montreal killed off 25 straight penalties dating back to March 6 before the Kadri goal.

"You have to turn the page," said Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf. "There's no looking back on today, tomorrow. Tomorrow's a new day. We've got to pull ourselves out of it. It's this group that's going to get us out of this bind. We've been close, but close isn't good enough right now."

Montreal had 2-0 and 3-2 leads in the first period.

The Canadiens capitalized on Leafs winger Phil Kessel's neutral-zone turnover to open the scoring. Pacioretty put center David Desharnais' feed five-hole on Reimer for his 31st goal of the season.

Toronto surrendered the first goal for the sixth straight game.

Bourque gave Montreal a 2-0 lead 65 seconds later, beating Reimer glove side for his ninth goal of the season.

"I liked the contributions of that line with Daniel Briere and Brian Gionta (and Bourque)," Therrien said. "They gave us some big goals."

Lupul got Toronto on the board at 11:04, one-timing winger Mason Raymond's feed past Price for his 20th goal of the season to snap a six-game drought.

Bozak tied it at 2 at 18:03 of the first period, putting a Kessel pass into a wide-open net for his 16th goal of the season.

Just over a minute later, Gionta gave the Canadiens a 3-2 lead as his shot redirected off Leafs defenseman Tim Gleason and in.

Leafs center David Bolland, who was playing in his first game after missing four months due to injury, had 16 shifts and just over nine minutes of ice time while registering three hits and a shot on goal.

"I think that first shift was probably the hardest," said Bolland. "It's getting the timing and figuring things out out there. You've sort of got to get used to it."

NOTES: Canadiens C Lars Eller suffered a lower-body injury in the win and is day-to-day according to Canadiens coach Michel Therrien. As a result, the Canadiens re-called C Michael Bournival from their AHL affiliate following the game. ... Toronto C Dave Bolland (ankle) returned to the lineup after missing 56 games. In a corresponding move, the Maple Leafs assigned C Peter Holland to their AHL affiliate. Leafs G Jonathan Bernier missed his fourth game. ... Referee Greg Kimmerly worked his 1,000th NHL game. ... The Canadiens announced Friday that F Brandon Prust will miss the remainder of the season with a nagging shoulder injury. ... Leafs D Paul Ranger missed his first game with a neck injury suffered in Wednesday night's loss to Tampa Bay. ... The Leafs assigned C Carter Ashton to their AHL affiliate on Saturday morning. ... Toronto visits New Jersey on Sunday and Montreal continues its two-game road trip on Monday in Boston.
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