The Montreal Canadiens' playoff hopes are getting slimmer.
They took their frustrations out in a fight-filled contest while losing 5-1 to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.
After Mattias Ohlund scored the Canucks' third goal of the third period to put Vancouver ahead 5-1, the game degenerated into a slugfest.
Referee Stephen Walkom issued 122 penalty minutes 69 against Vancouver in the final period, including a double-game misconduct to Canucks rookie Bill Muckalt, and a match penalty to Canadiens Shayne Corson, who cracked his stick on the back of Canuck Ed Jovanovski's head.
Even Montreal goaltender Jeff Hackett got into a fight with Vancouver's Bryan McCabe following Ohlund's goal.
By the time the final buzzer had sounded, the Canucks snapped a six-game losing streak and beat the Canadiens for the first time in 11 meetings going back to Dec. 27, 1992.
The Canadiens dropped nine points behind the Boston Bruins for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens have nine games left.
"We've been on the other end of these scores and we've been a team that's been frustrated, so I can't say I have a great deal of sympathy (for Montreal)," said Canucks coach Marc Crawford, when asked about the third-period fights. "Our team is a team that showed good togetherness tonight. Good teams do that."
Corson refused to talk to the media following the game.
Canadiens coach Alain Vigneault said the fighting was the result of "frustration being vented by both teams."
"It's part of the game. Those things will happen," he added.
Vigneault wouldn't comment on Corson's match penalty, saying he hasn't seen a replay of what happened. But, he said, "I do know that (Muckalt) almost broke his stick on Eric Weinrich's back two seconds before that. If that would've been called, probably the (Corson) incidenwouldn't have occurred."
A pair of Canucks reached significant milestones as Vancouver enjoyed its best offensive output in more than two months.
Mark Messier had two assists, including the 1,049th of his career, tying him with Gordie Howe for fourth on the all-time list.
Meanwhile, Adrian Aucoin scored twice to give him 21 this season. Aucoin established a franchise record for most goals by a defenseman and also leads the NHL in that category.
Aucoin's first of the night put the Canucks ahead for good, snapping a 1-1 tie midway through the second period. It was also his 20th, breaking the Canucks' 16-year-old record for defenseman established by Doug Halward.
"That sounds a little strange, doesn't it?" said Messier, when asked what it felt like to catch Howe. "I really don't know what to say about that. I guess I've just been around long enough to do something like that. I kind of have to shake my head."
"To reach a milestone like that is pretty special."
With 610 goals, Messier is also tied with Bobby Hull on the all-time list.
Said Aucoin, who had only scored 13 goals in parts of four seasons entering this season, "It's a nice positive thing for a tough year. A lot of guys are taking the things that they can from a year like this, so for myself it's a step up for my career."
Alexander Mogilny set up three goals and Mattias Ohlund had two goals and an assist as the Canucks ended a seven-game winless streak (0-6-1) at home. Peter Schaefer also scored for the Canucks.
Danius Zubrus, briefly tying the game 4:40 into the second period, scored for the Canadiens.
The Canadiens, 4-3-1 since trading away leading scorer Mark Recchi to Philadelphia, were missing five regulars. They included Saku Koivu, who missed his second straight since injuring his knee against Edmonton on Wednesday night.
Said Weinrich of Montreal's injury woes: "It's frustrating whenever you lose. But right now we're really short-handed. We're calling up guys from all over the country to play for us. But that's just something you deal with."
Prior to the game, the Canucks announced that forward Brad May will miss the rest of the season after breaking a bone in his left hand during Friday's practice. May has had a disappointing season with six goals and 17 points in 66 games.
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