The Montreal Canadiens exulted in their 100th anniversary celebrations Thursday night by rolling out the red carpet and rolling over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Sergei Kostitsyn opened the scoring and older brother Andrei Kostitsyn had one goal and two assists as the Canadiens defeated the visiting Maple Leafs 6-2 at the Bell Centre.
Both Kostitsyns tallied on the power play — the most potent in the NHL in each of the past two seasons but ranked a distant 27th out of 30 teams this season.
"Everything is going good for us," Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau said. "Earlier in the season, we were having trouble against teams below us in the standings and we didn't want that to happen again."
"I didn't really like the way the game was officiated," Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson said. "We were on the receiving end in some scrums where we had guys getting thrown in the box for 10 minutes."
In the waning seconds, Sergei Kostitsyn and Maple Leafs rookie Mikhail Grabovski, a former Canadiens prospect who was booed each time he played the puck, had to be restrained from fighting by the officials.
Both players shoved the linesman away — an indication of the animosity between them, and likely to result in either fines or suspensions.
"It was like an old Canadiens-Quebec Nordiques game," Carbonneau said.
Prior to the contest, the capacity crowd of 21,273 cheered luminaries like Hall of Famers Jean Beliveau and Johnny Bower in a pre-game tribute to the storied Original Six rivalry.
"It's a big rivalry between these teams," Canadiens forward Maxim Lapierre said. "I think it's great hockey."
Lapierre and Alex Kovalev provided one goal and one assist apiece for the Canadiens (24-10-6), who skated to their third straight win and eighth in 10 games.
Guillaume Latendresse and rookie Max Pacioretty had the other goals, and Patrice Brisebois contributed three assists — all in the first period.
Jaroslav Halak kicked aside 30 of 32 shots in his fourth straight start, with Carey Price nursing an injured groin.
"Everyone played so well and Jaro made the big saves," Brisebois said. "It's a huge two points and it's fun [because] we're playing great hockey right now."
Tomas Kaberle and Matt Stajan scored power-play goals for the Maple Leafs (16-19-6), losers in six of their last eight outings.
Vesa Toskala yielded five goals on 21 shots before being yanked in favour of backup Curtis Joseph, who faced eight shots in the third period.
Toronto held a 32-29 edge in shots overall.
"They're a good hockey team and we knew they were going to come out hard from the drop of the puck," Maple Leafs forward Jason Blake said. "We just have to find a way inside this room to make sure that we're ready for the hockey game when warmups come and the drop of the puck comes."
'We needed a great start'
Sergei Kostitsyn staked Montreal to a 1-0 lead with his seventh goal of the season, whipping a Brisebois rebound in the open side 2:35 into the first period.
Less than three minutes later, Lapierre then broke in two-on-one with Robert Lang and beat Toskala between the pads for his eighth.
"We needed a great start," Lapierre said. "We played last night and we knew they were going to be ready.
"we just kept it simple, put the puck at the net and that's what happened. We got the two points."
Kaberle trimmed Toronto's deficit with a power-play goal at the 7:55 mark, blasting a slapshot past Halak off a faceoff (won by Dominic Moore) for his third.
It was pretty much all Montreal after that.
The Maple Leafs were caught making a line change — they had killed off a charging penalty to Brad May — when the Canadiens capitalized on the counter-attack.
Tom Kostopoulos circled the net and fed the puck in front to Latendresse, who buried it for his seventh with 57 seconds left in the period.
"We're playing well right now," Latendresse said. "Everybody's confident, we're playing hard and we knew that if we started well we would have control of the game."
May, acquired Wednesday from the Anaheim Ducks for a sixth-round draft pick, tried to make amends in the second period by fighting Francis Bouillon following a spirited bout between Jamal Mayers and Kostopoulos.
"We had a lot of guys answer the bell and I'm happy for that," Wilson said. "But we still need more effort from a lot of guys, unfortunately."
Kovalev's 11th goal put Montreal up 4-1 at 6:20, and Andrei Kostitsyn converted Lang's slick pass through the crease for his 12th with 67 seconds left in the period.
Pacioretty snapped a Kovalev rebound behind Joseph for his second NHL goal at 12:08 of the third period before Stajan's 10th closed out the scoring with 1:30 remaining.