Vancouver Canucks Josh Green celebrates after scoring the first goal against Montreal Canadiens goaltender Cristobal Huet as Canadiens Christopher Higgins, left, and Canucks Ryan Kesler, right, look on during first period NHL hockey action in Montreal, Que. on Tuesday. (CP/Ryan Remiorz)
Josh Green, Lukas Krajicek, Ryan Kesler and Jan Bulis scored for the surging Canucks (26-19-1), who have won nine of their last 10 games and moved past the idle Calgary Flames into first place in the Northwest Division.
Cristobal Huet made 20 saves in goal for the Canadiens (25-17-2), who have lost nine of their last 13 games and haven't scored a goal in two straight, drawing a chorus of boos from the sellout crowd of 21,273 at the Bell Centre throughout the third period.
The Canadiens have been outscored 14-3 in losing their last three games and have failed to score an even strength goal in nine of their last 10 periods, dating back to a 4-2 win over Philadelphia on Jan. 11.
Conversely, the Canucks have scored 39 goals and allowed only 22 over their last 10 games, riding some incredible special teams play to the top of the division standings. Vancouver has killed off 50 of 53 penalties and has scored on 13 of 54 power-play opportunities over those 10 games.
The victory made it a triumphant return to the Bell Centre for Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who coached the Canadiens from the start of the 1997 season until November of 2000 and was facing his old team for the first time.
The axe fell from Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau on Tuesday as he shuffled all his forward lines and finally lost patience with struggling winger Sergei Samsonov, sending him to the press box for the first time this season, but it was to no avail.
Samsonov has no goals in his last 16 games, and two goals in the last 36 games, both coming against the Boston Bruins on Dec. 12.
The Canucks took a 1-0 lead at 6:36 of the first when Bieksa wheeled around the Canadiens net and fed Green for his second of the year.
Krajicek made it 2-0 on the power play at 8:58 of the first, taking a feed from Bulis and firing a wrist shot to the far top corner for his second of the year.
Montreal came out with a bit more jump in the second, but it was Vancouver who scored to extend its lead when Kesler tipped a Bieksa point shot past Huet at 13:51 of the second.
Bulis put the game out of reach at 0:55 of the third when he beat Huet with a long slapper for his eighth of the season.
Notes: Canadiens Defenceman Craig Rivet was also a healthy scratch for the first time this season, breaking a streak of 153 consecutive games played, and was replaced by Janne Niinimaa. Rivet had two goals and two assists but was a minus-6 over his previous seven games. It was only the third game Rivet has missed in his last five seasons. ... Canucks D Willie Mitchell missed his second game with a groin injury, while winger Taylor Pyatt missed his first game with a thumb injury that will keep him out of the lineup indefinitely. ... Canadiens centre Radek Bonk returned from a neck injury that cost him five games. ...canadiens winger Garth Murray, who was placed on waivers Tuesday, was also not in the lineup.