Canadiens never relinquish lead to Bruins for sixth win in last seven

MONTREAL -- Tuukka Rask took the blame for a tough loss after Sergei Kostitsyn and the Montreal Canadiens took advantage of Bell Centre's lively boards to victimize the Boston goalie on a seemingly harmless dump-in.

Rask misplayed the puck behind his own net on a play that led directly to Kostitsyn's second goal of the game and Montreal went on to its season-high fifth straight win, 3-2 over the Bruins on Saturday night.

Kostitsyn, who has three goals in two games, put Montreal up 3-1 early in the third when jumped on an opportunity after Rask was unable to handle Hal Gill's dump-in off the end boards.

The puck slid under Rask's stick and Kostitsyn -- who gave the Canadiens a 2-0 lead when he scored late in the first -- fired the loose puck into the wide open net for his fifth of the season 1:41 into the third before the Finnish goalie could stop it with a desperate stick lunge.

"I think I misread it," Rask said. "I went to play it on my forehand. To me, it seems like it came out of the boards faster than before it hit the boards. It's tough when your goalie makes a mistake like that. It shows on the scoreboard and tonight it cost us the game."

The loss was a missed opportunity for the Bruins to gain some breathing space in their drive for a playoff spot. Boston, which finished first overall in the Eastern Conference last season, is eighth in the East with 72 points, three ahead of the New York Rangers and four up on Tampa Bay.

"All in all, the way Montreal's been playing thus far, we didn't put a full 60-minute effort in and I think that's what hurt us today," said Milan Lucic, who scored 11:46 into the third to draw Boston within one.

Jaroslav Halak made 21 saves, and Andrei Markov had a goal and an assist for Montreal, which has won six of seven since the Olympic break.

Halak stopped Marco Sturm with less than 5 minutes remaining in the third to help send the Canadiens' on to their longest winning streak since a five-game run from Oct. 11-20, 2008.

"It's a team game," said Halak, who has won all five games during the streak. "The guys were there for me most of the game -- when I needed to be there, I made a stop."

Montreal remained tied for sixth place in the Eastern Conference with Philadelphia. Both teams have 76 points, though the Canadiens have played three more games.

"Every morning we see the board and it's always nice to look at it after we win," Markov said.

Rask stopped 24 shots, and Blake Wheeler also scored for Boston, which fell to 1-2-1 in its last four games, a skid that began with a 2-1 loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Bruins center Marc Savard was lost to injury indefinitely as the result of a controversial hit to the head by Penguins forward Matt Cooke during that game. Prior to that, Boston had lost once in regulation in its previous nine games (6-1-2).

Lucic drew the Bruins within one when he circled back along the right side in the Canadiens zone to the top of the slot, where he fired a wrist shot through traffic past Halak for his seventh goal.

Maxim Lapierre returned to Montreal's lineup after serving a four-game suspension for his hit from behind on San Jose's Scott Nichol.

Markov extended his points streak to six games when he opened the scoring with a power-play goal 6:02 in. The Russian defenseman was credited with his fifth goal when his slap shot from the point was redirected past Rask off Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg's stick.

Markov got his second point of the opening period with an assist on Kostitsyn's goal at 19:20. Kostitsyn scored for the second straight game with 39.5 seconds left when he swiped the puck inside the left post with a backhand from the edge of the crease after Markov made a return pass from behind the goal line.

"I hope my best games are in the future," said Markov, who has 27 points while being limited to 33 games because of injuries this season. "Right now, I'm having fun."

Wheeler drew the Bruins to 2-1 with his 16th goal 1:12 into the second.

Game notes
Bruins C Patrice Bergeron was one of six Canadian Olympic medalists honored prior to the game. Bergeron drew cheers as he skated to center ice and donned a red Canada ballcap. He was joined by Kim St. Pierre, Charline Labonte, Catherine Ward and Caroline Ouellette -- all members of Canada's gold medal-winning women's hockey team -- and speed skater Clara Hughes, who won bronze in the women's 5000 meters. "It was nice to get that ovation and it was nice from the Canadiens' standpoint to honor the Olympics," Bergeron said.