MONTREAL (TICKER) —Fans at the Bell Centre booed the U.S. national anthem, and the New York Islanders made sure they kept booing most of the night.
Alexei Yashin had his finest game of an otherwise disappointing season with two goals and three assists as the Islanders raced to a four-goal lead and all but ended the playoff hopes of the Montreal Canadiens with a 6-3 triumph.
Amid the backdrop of the American-led invasion of Iraq, the sellout crowd of 21,273 all but drowned out the national anthem. They gave a prolonged standing ovation when Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur was introduced during pregame ceremonies but had little else for which to cheer.
“The fans in Montreal don’t show us any respect,” said Islanders backup goaltender Rick DiPietro, who is from Massachusetts. “I was upset by the booing. A hockey game is no time to boo the United States. This really aggravates me. I am so embarrassed to be a hockey player. How low can these fans get to boo a song?”
Former Canadien Arron Asham scored the only goal of the first period and Jason Blake and Oleg Kvasha struck in the opening minute of the second to give New York a 3-0 lead. When Yashin put in a rebound during a two-man advantage at 6:11, the Islanders were in control and the booing was back.
“We’re in a situation now that we owe something to our fans,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. “We are going to play hard to the end. We are not allowed to quit. Those are the rules of the game.”
Demoted to the fourth line earlier this season, Yashin matched his production for the previous 11 games.
“I didn’t like it when they put me on the fourth line,” he said. “Now I’m on a good line with Oleg and Asham. We developed a great relationship on the ice. I play well against the Canadiens. But I have nothing special against them.”
Montreal’s frustrations spilled over 6:57 into the final period when goaltender Jose Theodore charged out of the net after Islanders rookie Mattias Weinhandl. Theodore got in a couple of shots with his glove before order was restored.
“It was the second time they ran against me,” Theodore said. “They hit me hard. I lost my cool. I had to do something. I was really (ticked) off.”
“Jose was frustrated. They ran at him all night,” Julien added.
Andreas Dackell and Jason Ward had the other goals for the Canadiens, who fell eight points behind the Islanders and Boston for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with seven games left. Montreal is winless in its last seven home games (0-6-1).
“I hate to admit it’s all over,” Canadiens captain Saku Koivu said. “It’s still not impossible for us to get into the playoffs. But if you look at the standings, I guess we don’t have much of a chance.”
New York completed a pivotal 3-2-1 road trip to catch the seventh-place Bruins.
“Yashin couldn’t have picked a better night to come up with his best night,” Islanders coach Peter Laviolette said. “I told my team to control all four circles. I told them to be physical. Garth Snow was rock-solid.”