MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens valued a victory over the NHL's worst team as much as a win against one of the league's best.
Mike Johnson scored Montreal's league-leading 10th short-handed goal and the Canadiens extended their season-high winning streak to five games with a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night.
The Canadiens are second in overall points in the conference, five points behind conference and Northeast Division leader Buffalo, which rebounded from Tuesday's 5-2 loss to Montreal with a 7-2 win in Nashville.
"These points are worth the same as beating Buffalo -- two points are two points," Johnson said. "I thought we did a pretty good job of coming out prepared and ready for the game. We had enough chances to kind of open the game up early, but their goalie made a lot of big saves to let them stay in the game, and then it became a dogfight."
Canadiens goalie David Aebishcer recorded his 100th career win. He stopped 26 shots in his first start since a 4-3 win over Boston on Dec. 12 which began Montreal's current winning streak.
"It's special," said Aebischer, who backed up career wins leader Patrick Roy in Colorado before succeeding him as the Avalanche starter. "One hundred is not 551, but I'm getting closer."
Philadelphia's R.J. Umberger lost control of the puck as he attempted to go to his backhand on a penalty shot at 14:26 of the first period.
"I really challenged him on the shot," Aebischer said. "He came in with a lot of speed and I think I had him covered all the way. It would have taken a really good shot for him to score."
The Flyers, who have yet to win in December, have lost seven straight in regulation over the course of an 0-7-1 losing streak which began with a 4-3 shootout loss in New Jersey on Dec. 2.
"You always get tired of leaving the rink with your head down," said Mike Knuble, who scored the first of the Flyers' two power-play goals 5:41 into the second. "As a player you've got to believe that things will turn around and we'll have our day, too. It can't continue like this all the time."
"We have guys out there who, when they see the opportunity, they want try to go on the offense," Johnson said. "We'll take them when we can get them, and that's all part of our plan to kill penalties."
Latendresse and Rivet scored power-play goals 1:09 apart late in the first to give the Canadiens a 2-0 lead.
Jeff Carter also scored a power-play goal as both Philadelphia goals drew the Flyers within one. Carter's came with 30 seconds left in the period on the same power play as Johnson's short-handed goal.
"We knew they fought hard, and they did," Johnson said. "Every time we thought we kind of got the game out of reach, they came back and got one, so it wasn't an easy game."
Antero Niittymaki made 33 saves for the Flyers, who were outshot 37-28.
Mike York made his Philadelphia debut after he was acquired from the New York Islanders on Wednesday in a trade for Randy Robitaille and a fifth round pick next year.
In the first period, Montreal had an 18-8 margin in shots and a 6-2 advantage in power plays.
Latendresse scored his eighth of the season on a 5-on-3 advantage at 16:40, and Rivet got his fourth at 17:49 as the man advantage continued.
|Christopher Higgins gains control of a rebound and scores around Antero Niittymaki. (AP)|
|Montreal (21-8-5) «||2||1||1||4|
Save Pct.: .892
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|16:40||Power Play - Guillaume Latendresse (8), Slap Shot - Assists: Sergei Samsonov and Andrei Markov|
|17:49||Power Play - Craig Rivet (4), Slap Shot - Assists: Michael Ryder and Mark Streit|
|05:41||Power Play - Mike Knuble (14), Slap Shot - Assists: Simon Gagne and Alexei Zhitnik|
|19:11||Short - Mike Johnson (7), Slap Shot - Assists: Andrei Markov and Radek Bonk|
|19:30||Power Play - Jeff Carter (2), Slap Shot - Assist: Stefan Ruzicka|
|13:57||Christopher Higgins (11), Slap Shot - Assist: Saku Koivu|
|00:40||Gagne: Hooking - 2 min.|
|04:16||Pitkanen: Holding - 2 min.|
|11:37||Streit: Holding - 2 min.|
|12:06||Bonk: Hooking - 2 min.|
|13:13||Carter: High sticking - 2 min.|
|14:43||Knuble: Slashing - 2 min.|
|16:06||Zhitnik: Hooking - 2 min.|
|19:17||Knuble: Holding - 2 min.|
|05:04||Perezhogin: Tripping - 2 min.|
|07:57||Murray: Fighting - 5 min.|
|07:57||Eager: Fighting - 5 min.|
|09:29||Zhitnik: Interference - 2 min.|
|12:30||Johnson: Interference with goal tender. - 2 min.|
|18:58||Kovalev: Holding - 2 min.|
|09:21||Carter: High sticking - 2 min.|
|SHOTS ON GOAL|
|Attendance - 21273|
|Game Time - 60:00|
|Referees - Greg Kimmerly, Don Koharski|
|Line Judges - Thor Nelson, Pierre Racicot|