Originally created 04/24/98

Canadiens rally for OT win



PITTSBURGH -- Benoit Brunet caught Pittsburgh in a line change to beat Tom Barrasso with a slap shot from the top of the left circle at 18:43 of overtime, rallying Montreal past the Penguins 3-2 in their playoff opener Thursday night.

Penguins rookie Alexei Morozov could have won it just 1:44 into the extra period, but his backhander on a penalty shot -- a rarity in NHL overtime playoff hockey -- clanged off the right post.

Both teams had ample scoring changes after that, but it took Brunet's breakout following Vladimir Malakhov's up-ice pass to win it and send Pittsburgh to its seventh loss in its last nine playoff series openers.

Pittsburgh had rallied to tie it with only 1:38 remaining in the third period on Jiri Slegr's shot from the crease after Jaromir Jagr grabbed the puck off a faceoff in the Montreal zone.

The Penguins then could have won it on the penalty shot, awarded after defenseman Patrice Brisebois knocked the net off its moorings just as Andy Moog turned away Martin Straka's shot from the slot.

Before that, Montreal shook off Pittsburgh defenseman Brad Werenka's shorthanded goal at 7:21 of the second period to lead 1-0 and 2-1 and dictate the predictably conservative tempo.

The Canadiens haven't won a playoff series since last winning the Stanley Cup in 1993, and the pressure has grown in Montreal ever since to start winning in the postseason again.

BLUES 8, KINGS 3:

Geoff Courtnall had a goal and five assists for a team-record six points as the St. Louis Blues opened the playoffs with a victory.

Jim Campbell, Pierre Turgeon and Pavol Demitra each scored twice and Brett Hull had a goal and three assists for the Blues, who were 3-0-1 against Los Angeles in the regular season. The Blues never scored more than seven goals in the regular season, but took full advantage of the youthful Kings, in the playoffs for the first time in five years, by tying the team record for playoff scoring.

The Blues have had eight goals twice in the playoffs, against Vancouver in 1995 and Winnipeg in 1982. They also tied a team record with four second-period goals, sending a sellout crowd of 20,120 into a towel-waving frenzy.

Game 2 is Saturday night in St. Louis.

Courtnall led the Blues with 31 goals, and in 13 career playoff games against the Kings he has seven goals and 15 assists. Besides breaking the points record by one, he also tied the franchise assist record set by Doug Gilmour in 1986 against Minnesota.

Mario Lemieux was the last player with six points in a postseason game. He did it in Pittsburgh's 6-4 victory over Washington on April 23, 1992.

Courtnall, who had two goals and three assists against the Kings in the regular season, was a big part of the Blues' quick start. He set up Demitra 1:42 into the game and then scored on a power play at 4:42.

He slid the puck across the crease to set up Turgeon's power-play goal that made it 3-1 in the second; got the second assist on Campbell's goal that made it 4-1; and made a nice backhand set-up from behind the net that Campbell finished off for a 5-1 lead.

The Blues beat the Kings 7-3 in the next-to-last game of the season, and this one was just like that meaningless game -- except for a lack of fights. That game was notable for its 156 penalty minutes, but Game 1 was fairly civil, considering the score.

Craig Johnson, Glen Murray and Luc Robitaille scored for the Kings, who trailed 8-1 early in the third period.

Kings goalie Stephane Fiset, who allowed 33 goals in his last nine starts, continued to struggle. Campbell's second goal of the second period chased Fiset, who allowed five goals on 27 shots, in favor of Jamie Storr.

Storr had no better luck when Turgeon finished a rush with a wraparound that made it 6-1 at 15:12 of the second, Hull scored at 16 seconds of the third and Demitra scored at 1:08.

Blues goalie Grant Fuhr won his 81st career playoff game, breaking a tie with Ken Dryden for third on the career list. He also had an assist.

Both teams continued trends from the end of the season. The Blues won nine of their last 12 to finish with 98 points, tied for fourth overall, while the Kings limped home 5-8.