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Bruins blank Canadiens, extend win streak to 9

Ryan Remiorz | AP
Ryan Remiorz | AP
Montreal Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges (26) runs into Boston Bruins right wing Nathan Horton (18) during second-period National Hockey League action Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 in Montreal.
The Associated Press

MONTREAL — The Boston Bruins have been blowing out teams with potent offense while winning their way through November.

On a night when their production dwindled, Tim Thomas helped them squeeze out yet another victory.

Thomas made 33 saves for his second straight shutout and Boston extended its winning streak to nine games with a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.

Andrew Ference scored his second goal of the season at 15:41 of the first period for the Bruins, who have not lost since dropping two in a row to Montreal from Oct. 27-29.

Boston has scored at least six goals five times during the streak, and less than four just one other time, in a 2-1 shootout win over Columbus on Thursday.

“Every game’s different and for sure this one was a close game, and sometimes only one goal can make a difference in the game and that was the situation tonight,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said.

“We’ll take it. We didn’t play our best. They put pressure on us, especially early on, but I think we didn’t give them too many great scoring chances.”

The reigning Stanley Cup champions have outscored their opponents 46-14 over the course of the streak, Boston’s longest since a 10-game run from Dec. 12, 2008 to Jan. 1, 2009.

“You’ve got to learn to win a whole bunch of different ways over the years and that’s one of the things we did last year,” said Thomas, who posted his third shutout of the season, including a 23-save effort in a 6-0 road win over the New York Islanders on Saturday.

He extended his shutout streak to 133 minutes, 4 seconds. It was his 29th regular-season shutout.

Carey Price, who stopped 17 shots, had shutouts in each of his past two starts. Ference’s goal ended his shutout streak at 148 minutes, 11 seconds.

The Canadiens, who beat the New York Rangers 4-0 on Saturday night, have lost two of three.

Rich Peverley exchanged passes with Chris Kelly on the right side of Montreal’s zone to set up the game’s only goal. After getting the return pass, Peverley fed the puck across to Ference, who beat Price with a wrist shot into the top right corner.

“It boils down to we made one mistake and one missed assignment on their goal and that’s the difference in the game,” Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said. “I thought we played fairly well. At times we carried the play, but we just didn’t find a way to solve their goalie.”

Price denied Milan Lucic in the third after the Boston left wing was sent in alone on a pass by Nathan Horton.

Peverley cross-checked Michael Cammalleri to give the Canadiens a power play for the final 1:39.

Travis Moen misfired on a short-handed 2-on-1 in the first on what proved to be one of Montreal’s few scoring chances.

“It was an excellent hockey game,” Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. “I mean, both teams worked hard. There weren’t many chances, it was tight checking. I thought we competed hard and we had some chances, but we just couldn’t score.”

NOTES: The Bruins’ longest winning streak is 14 games from Dec. 3, 1929 to Jan. 9, 1930. … Canadiens D P.K. Subban played his 100th regular-season game.

Crosby scores 2 in comeback

PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby capped his comeback with a flourish.

The superstar forward scored twice and added two assists in his season debut and the Pittsburgh Penguins crushed the New York Islanders 5-0 on Monday night.

Playing his first game in more than 10 months while recovering from concussion-like symptoms, Crosby appeared to be in midseason form. He scored on his third shift in spectacular fashion, weaving through the New York defense before beating Anders Nilsson with a backhand for his first goal since last December.

Crosby added assists on goals by Evgeni Malkin and Brooks Orpik and capped his comeback with a second tally, a backhand that fluttered by Nilsson early in the third period to provide the final margin.

“Sidney Crosby’s back, guys,” linemate Pascal Dupuis said.

Steve Sullivan also scored for the Penguins while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots.

Nilsson, making just his second start of the season, made 31 saves for New York.

The rookie looked overwhelmed at times as the Penguins roared to life with their captain back.

An electric Consol Energy Center crowd greeted Crosby with a deafening roar when he skated onto the ice during warm-ups while “Back in the Saddle Again” blared over the speakers.

Fans held placards with “Sid’ on them — a directive from Hall of Famer and team owner Mario Lemieux — while others brought homemade homages to “Sid the Kid,” including one that read “Merry Sid-Mas.”

Crosby’s return gave a late-November game between a perennial contender and an overmatched also-ran a playoff-like feel, and not just because more than 250 press credentials were handed out, four times the usual number.

Throughout his achingly slow rehab the 24-year-old stressed he wouldn’t return until he felt 100 percent and stressed it would be nearly impossible to top Lemieux’s successful return from retirement in 2000, when he notched an assist on his first shift then later added a goal and another helper.

Amazingly, Crosby one-upped his boss.

Displaying the speed that’s made him a national icon in his native Canada and the face of the sport at age 24, Crosby transformed the Penguins from Cup contender to Cup favorite in less than 6 minutes, or the time it took him to score his first goal in 328 days.

Finishing off a backcheck, Crosby streaked up the ice, took a pass from Dupuis as he crossed the center line and went to work. He worked the puck to his backhand, slipped past New York’s Andrew MacDonald and flipped the puck over Nilsson’s glove.

The normally reticent Crosby screamed as he skated into the corner, thrusting his arms aloft and letting out a huge scream.

He was just getting started, later helping the Penguins go up 2-0 by feeding Orpik on the point and watching his defenseman rifle a slap shot by Nilsson.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said before the game he’d try to monitor Crosby’s minutes but knew it would be difficult to keep him off the ice.

It was.

Crosby played nearly 16 minutes and for the first time in nearly a year, absorbed a hit at game speed. New York’s Travis Hamonic cleanly checked Crosby to the ground during a first-period Pittsburgh power play.

It was the first real test of Crosby’s comeback, and he popped up immediately to get back in the play as the Penguins — and the rest of the hockey world — exhaled.

His return, however, is a “be careful what you wish for” proposition for the NHL. The Penguins have been solid without him. During his first night back, they were spectacular.

Crosby earned a secondary assist on Malkin’s power-play goal early in the second and Malkin later provided a highlight-worthy point of his own, threading a saucer pass to Sullivan as Pittsburgh pushed the lead to 4-0.

Crosby capped his spectacular debut with a backhand that fluttered by Nilsson in the third, turning the last 15 minutes of the game into a celebration worthy of late-spring not the week of Thanksgiving.

NOTES: New York defenseman Mark Eaton left the game with a sprained left MCL and did not return. … The announced crowd of 18,571 marked the 219th consecutive sellout. … Pittsburgh’s James Neal did not score in a home game for the first time this season.

Blue Jackets 4, Flames 1

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jeff Carter had two goals, Curtis Sanford made 27 saves and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Calgary Flames 4-1 on Monday night for their first winning streak in 42 games.

Antoine Vermette and Rick Nash also scored, and Vinny Prospal added three assists for the Blue Jackets, who improved 3-1-1 in their last five games, and 2-0-1 in those games with the red-hot Sanford. Nash stopped a seven-game drought.

Sanford, who signed a two-way contract in the offseason and recently returned from a groin injury, has been a steadying influence on the team in place of the struggling Steve Mason.

Mark Giordano scored for Calgary, which was seeking a third consecutive win. Backup Henrik Karlsson made 26 stops.

Carter, who has all three of his goals this season in the last two games, carried the puck the length of the ice before sending a snap shot from the left circle over Karlsson’s glove at 3:01 in the first period.

The Blue Jackets continued to forecheck and it paid dividends three minutes later. Derek Dorsett jostled the puck loose around the Flames net and eventually Vermette flicked a nifty shot between his legs and inside the near post to make it 2-0.

Calgary coach Brent Sutter used his timeout after the goal and the Flames responded, playing with more cohesion. They finished the period with an 11-10 shots advantage, but Sanford was there to close the door on the best chances.

Sanford stymied Tim Jackman trying to finish a 2-on-1, kicked aside an uncontested slap shot from Giordano and gloved Alex Tanguay’s attempt.

In the second period, soon after Sanford got a piece of a shot from Rene Bourque on a short-handed breakaway, Columbus capitalized on a two-man advantage at 5:28. Carter fired a Prospal rebound into an open net to make it 3-0.

The Flames bounced back with a power-play goal of their own just over four minutes later. Skating laterally into the right circle, Giordano put on the brakes and snapped a perfectly placed shot to the far post for his third.

The Flames’ best chance in the third came early when Tanguay hit the post and Mikael Backlund couldn’t sweep the rebound into a gaping net.

Nash put the game away with his fifth at 18:29.

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