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Michael Ryder's two goals lift Canadiens to 6-3 win over slumping Lightning

The Canadian Press
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Montreal Canadiens\' Alex Kovalev, right, from Russia celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning with teammate Michael Ryder during first period NHL hockey action Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson Author: The Hockey News

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Michael Ryder's two goals lift Canadiens to 6-3 win over slumping Lightning

The Canadian Press
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MONTREAL - Michael Ryder scored two goals and set up another to lift the Montreal Canadiens to a 6-3 NHL victory and extend the Tampa Bay Lightning's winless run to six games on Thursday night.

Alexei Kovalev, Chris Higgins, Andrei Kostitsyn and Kyle Chipchura also scored for 20-13-7 Montreal, which won at home for only the second time in its last nine games at Bell Centre.

Ryder has three goals in his last three games after an 18-game stretch in which he was a healthy scratch five times and was held without a point.

Vaclav Prospal had a goal and two assists, while Martin St. Louis and NHL scoring leader Vincent Lecavalier each had a goal and assist for the 15-22-4 Lightning, who are last in the Eastern Conference.

Tampa Bay's league-worse road record fell to 3-14-2, with thier last away win a 3-2 shootout decision in Montreal on Dec. 11.

Kostitsyn, who has four goals in his last four games, broke a tie when skated down the left wing and fired a shot that went in off rookie goaltender Karri Ramo's glove to a roar from the sellout crowd of 21,273.

Chipchura added a goal at 11:01 of the third after Sergei Kostitsyn forced a turnover in front of the Tampa Bay net.

Higgins fed Ryder on a two-on-one to complete the scoring at 17:22.

The Canadiens held 2-0 and 3-1 leads but saw the Lightning fight back to tie it 3-3 going into the third period.

Kovalev banged in Ryder's pass on a powerplay 14:16 into the game and, three minutes later, Higgins wristed a Saku Koivu pass in on another man advantage. Kovalev's 17th goal is only one less than he had all of last season.

Lecavalier put the Bolts back in the game 49 seconds into the second frame on a spactacular effort as he reached back to take Prospal's pass behind the Montreal defence and scored his 27th on the breakaway.

Lecavalier was in alone again two minutes later, but was foiled by Cristobal Huet.

Ryder snapped a shot in while on an off-wing rush at 9:10, but St. Louis banged in Prospal's pass on a power play at 12:04.

A mix-up between defencemen Francis Bouillon and Josh Gorges gave the Lightning's top line the puck in the slot and, two quick passes later, Prospal had his 18th of the season.

The Canadiens opened a three-game homestand that continues Saturday against Washington. The Lightning continue a four-game trip Saturday in Ottawa and Tuesday against the Rangers in New York.

Notes: Injured Canadiens Patrice Brisebois (shoulder), Steve Begin (shoulder) and Bryan Smolinski (knee) are close to returning, while rookie defenceman Ryan O'Byrne is out six weeks with a broken thumb.. . Koivu earned his 400th career assist.

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Michael Ryder's two goals lift Canadiens to 6-3 win over slumping Lightning