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Habs edge Oilers in great outdoors
WebPosted Sat Nov 22 23:22:38 2003

CBC SPORTS ONLINE - An NHL-record crowd of 57,167 braved freezing temperatures only to leave disappointed as the Montreal Canadiens edged the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.


Steam rises from Montreal Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore during the second period Saturday, outdoors in Edmonton.
(CP/Tom Hanson)
Yanic Perreault and Richard Zednik each scored two goals for the Canadiens while Eric Brewer, Jarret Stoll and Steve Staios replied for the Oilers, who entered the highly-anticipated evening on a four-game winning streak.

With temperatures hitting -20 Celsius at game time, players insulated themselves with sweatshirts under their team sweaters. Montreal netminder Jose Theodore sported a Habs toque with a red and blue pompom over top of his mask, but the cold didn't seem to phase him.

Theodore made 34 saves for the Canadiens, who snapped a two-game slide and improved to 3-5-1-1 in the month of November. Patrice Brisebois added two assists in the win.

"It's hard to feel good out there, your equipment is so cold," said Theodore.

"You have a hard time moving...It was really like when you play for fun, you just throw yourself all over the place and hope for the puck to hit you."

Most of the fans stuck around to the end, despite arriving six hours earlier to watch the Oilers alumni take on Habs alumni -- a game that was won 2-0 by the Oilers oldtimers.

The Oilers-Habs game easily surpassed the previous record attendance of 28,183 for a Philadelphia-Tampa Bay playoff game in 1996.

"There was only one thing lacking in the whole evening and that was we didn't deliver the win," said Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish.

One other drawback to the game was the ice surface. The frigid temperatures made it chip easily.

"The ice was not great but the players persevered through it," said MacTavish. "I knew bounces around the net were going to play a big part in the hockey game and they did."

Theodore fell victim to a hole that had to be patched behind the Montreal net. Trying to play the puck, the Montreal netminder tripped and ended up on his rear.

"It was pretty chippy," Oilers forward Mike York said of the ice. "Just trying to make simple plays was hard.

"It got real bad during the end. You'd try to make a pass and the puck would hop right off your stick."

Theodore and Oilers netminder Ty Conklin combined for 17 saves in a scoreless first period, with Theodore turning aside 12 shots, including a late opportunity by Edmonton forward Raffi Torres.

The Canadiens jumped on the board when Zednik scored his fifth of the season just 39 seconds into the second stanza.

Perreault made it 2-0 midway through the second when, on a power play, he followed up on a bouncing rebound and stuffed the puck past Conklin.

But the Oilers finally got on the board a few minutes later when Brewer's tip-in trickled under Theodore's left skate to make it 2-1 with 6:15 remaining in the period.

Perrault made a nice move for his second goal of the game, handing the Canadiens a 3-1 lead just 2:22 into the third. He received a pass behind the net from Niklas Sundstrom, and rather than sending it out front, kept it himself, wheeling around the cage and sliding it past Conklin for his seventh of the season.

Edmonton made it interesting later in the third, pulling within 3-2 when Stoll picked up a rebound in front and stuffed it home with 6:54 remaining to play.

Zednik made a nice move on Conklin just over a minute later, scoring his second of the game to make it 4-2, but Staios' goal 39 seconds after that restored the drama.

Theodore was knocked down on the play and while sprawled out in front, didn't make it back in time to stop the point shot by Staios. But he was solid for the remaining five minutes and kept Edmonton out of the net to preserve the win.

with files from Sports Network and Canadian Press

H e a d l i n e s :

 

Habs goalie Jose Theodore speaks with HNIC's Elliotte Friedman after the chilly game
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