Work in Sports
Habs make their move
Victory over Rangers moves Montreal into eighth
Posted: Wednesday April 05, 2000 11:46 PM
Weinrich, who had missed five games, returned Wednesday night and had an assist in the Canadiens' 3-0 victory over the New York Rangers that vaulted Montreal back into a playoff spot with two games left in the regular season.
"I'd rather be out there making a mistake than not playing right now," the defenseman said. "I feel like I can go and I want to help the team however I can."
Jeff Hackett made 31 saves for his 22nd career shutout as the Canadiens, with 81 points, moved past Carolina into an eighth-place tie with Buffalo in the race for the Eastern Conference's final postseason berth.
"All we can do is win our games and keep our fingers crossed," Weinrich said.
Buffalo has a game in hand over Montreal, which has home games remaining against Tampa Bay and Ottawa.
"It's going to go down to the wire," coach Alain Vigneault said. "It's been interesting, it's been fun, and we're going to compete very hard."
Montreal, which missed the playoffs last season, has not been out of the postseason in consecutive years since failing in three straight from 1920-22.
"Tonight was a do-or-die situation for us," Vigneault said. "We had to win. We found a way to do it."
Brian Savage and Sergei Zholtok scored first-period goals and Martin Rucinsky scored his 25th in the second period for the injury-ravaged Canadiens, who continued their improbable drive to the playoffs despite losing 531 man-games to injury.
Weinrich rushed back to the lineup so the number wouldn't go higher.
"I've never played on a team that faced this much adversity," he said.
Hackett, who has three shutouts this season, faced little pressure from the Rangers. New York, already eliminated from postseason contention, was shut out at home for the second straight game -- the second time this season that has occurred.
The Rangers lost 6-0 to Detroit on March 27, the night before the dismissals of general manager Neil Smith and coach John Muckler. New York, 1-10-2 in 13 games, is 0-2-1 since the firings.
Interim coach John Tortorella lost his home debut for the Rangers, who have not won at Madison Square Garden since March 3, when they beat Florida. Those fans who came to the game voiced their displeasure throughout.
"We're trying to keep it as positive as we can," Tortorella said. "It's awful difficult to do. We put ourselves here and we deserve what we're getting."
Jean-Francois Labbe made his NHL debut in goal for the Rangers. Labbe, recalled Tuesday from Hartford of the AHL, settled down after a shaky first period, but was trailing 2-0 by then.
"It is my first game so I was a little bit nervous," Labbe said. "I felt a little bit better in the second half of the game."
Savage scored his 17th goal when he deflected in Weinrich's shot from the point. Zholtok gave the Canadiens a two-goal advantage, scoring his 26th goal. Dainius Zubrus picked up a rebound of Oleg Petrov's shot and moved the puck to Zholtok standing to the left of Labbe.
Rucinsky made it 3-0 early in the third from the left circle.
"I was a little bit upset after the third goal," Labbe said. 'I told myself that there was nothing I could do, so I said `Just keep having fun out there and just play."'
Labbe, who made 19 saves, is serving as the backup to Kirk McLean. Mike Richter, the Rangers' All-Star goalie, underwent successful surgery Wednesday to repair a torn ligament in his left knee. His rehabilitation will last six months, which means it could carry into next season.
Richter played through pain in the knee since February, when he was injured in the skills competition during NHL All-Star weekend.
"It's one thing to go ahead and try to play," Richter said by telephone on the Rangers' telecast. "It's another thing if you are really helping your team or not. That was frustrating for me."
New York went 0-for-6 on the power play Wednesday.
"I thought the difference was our goaltending," Vigneault said. "Our goaltender was better than their's tonight. He especially made the difference in the penalty-killing."