Begin scored twice—giving him three this season—and Higgins, a Long Island native, added a goal and assist to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.
It was Higgins’ first goal on the road this season, and it couldn’t have come at a better place—just miles from home.
“Good old Long Island came through for me once again,” said Higgins, a Smithtown native. “In all the seasons I’ve been a pro, I’ve had more goals on the road than at home, so this is new to me.”
Higgins had 66 passes for family and friends to attend the game.
“My mom took care of most of that,” Higgins said.
“A shutout is just a bonus,” Huet said. “It’s more important to get the win.”
Mike Comrie scored late for the Islanders, who got 29 saves from Rick DiPietro. New York lost for the first time at home in five games (4-1). They also had their NHL-record streak of regulation one-goal decisions snapped at seven, a span in which the Islanders were 5-2.
Montreal grabbed a 1-0 lead 56 seconds into the game. An Islanders turnover in their zone resulted in Begin’s 25-foot slap shot from the left circle that beat DiPietro high to the glove side.
“Mathieu (Dandenault) made a great play,” Begin said. “He passed it to (Bryan) Smolinski, and the goalie tried to make a poke check, but the puck rolled back to me so slowly. I had time to let it rip. I always shoot high and hard in practice, so I may as well do it in a game.”
DiPietro kept the score the same when he stopped Alex Kovalev with his glove on a rebound attempt at 10:42.
“We gave them the first goal, and it took a while for us to wake up,” Islanders forward Mike Sillinger said. “We didn’t make them earn their goals, the first goal especially. I think we didn’t compete as hard as we had in the past.”
In the second period, the Canadiens upped the lead to 2-0 one second after a power play expired. Higgins scored his eighth of the season as his flip shot, with help from the stick of Islanders defenseman Bryan Berard, rolled off DiPietro’s glove and into the net at 6:1 4.
Just 1:04 later, Begin made it 3-0 with a right side slap shot that beat DiPietro again high to the glove side. It was just his third goal of the season.
“Another great play by Dandenault,” Begin said. “I put it in the same spot, too.”
Plekanec pushed Montreal’s advantage to four goals at 13:22 with his sixth goal.
“They blocked shots exceptionally well, and their goaltender played exceptionally well,” Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. “Sometimes we look at what we did wrong too much and not look at what the other team did right.”
With Huet poised for the shutout, Comrie scored his seventh goal at 16:10, finishing a cross-ice pass from Chris Simon with a wrist shot to the blocker side.
The Islanders had 20 of their 44 shots in the final period, and DiPietro noted that the effort didn’t show up in time.
“We didn’t have a good couple of periods, and they’re a good hockey club who took advantage,” DiPietro said. “I thought we played really well in the third, but too little, too late.”
Montreal had alternated wins and losses in the six games before Wednesday. Canadiens D Patrice Brisebois, who had an assist, is three points shy of the 400 for his NHL career. The Islanders were 0-7 on the power play… The last Islanders goalie to face Montreal was Mike Dunham, who lost 5-3 at Bell Centre on March 13. Dunham retired at the end of last season, and is now New York’s goalie coach. DiPietro is 4-6 against the Canadiens.