In a crucial battle up north, the Canadiens held on for a 5-4 victory over the Maple Leafs. Big performances from Sheldon Souray (team leading 22nd), Saku Koivu (goal, assist) and returning enigma Alexei Kovalev (assist but played inspired) were enough for Montreal to vault over the Islanders and Hurricanes into seventh in the East with 72 points. Souray's power play blast off a clean Koivu win put the Habs up three and forced Toronto to replace Andrew Raycroft with Jean-Sebastien Aubin. Jeremey Williams and Alex Steen tallied for the Leafs early in the third to make things interesting. But an undetected high stick by Montreal's Garth Murray on Leafs captain Mats Sundin late in the contest proved to be too much for them to overcome. They remained in 10th with 69 points. Sundin was visibly upset and even spit out blood to prove a point. The Leafs couldn't tie it with Aubin off for an extra attacker as the Canadiens withstood a mad scramble to post the big win.
In another pivotal playoff battle, the Thrashers defeated the Bruins 3-2. Marian Hossa scored his club-leading 36th with less than 13:00 left to boost Atlanta to 74 points, one behind Southeast leader Tampa Bay. Alexei Zhitnik registered an assist in his Thrasher debut and Atlanta posted a franchise best 18th road win this season.
In other action, it's the Flames all over the Coyotes 5-1 up in Alberta while the Ducks on the strength of two goals from rookie Dustin Penner lead San Jose 2-0.