Colorado Avalanche goaltender Jose Theodore kneels on the ice following a goal by Montreal Canadiens Craig Rivet. (CP/Paul Chiasson)
The Montreal Canadiens pumped five goals past their former star goaltender in the third period en route to an 8-5 NHL victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night, with the sell-out crowd of 21,273 derisively chanting "Theo, Theo" after each goal.
"Wide open hockey is never an ideal situation for any goaltender," said an angry Theodore, adding that the jeering from the seats was what he expected.
The much-hyped goaltending showdown between Theodore and Montreal's David Aebischer, who were traded for each other last March, went to the home side after Colorado blew 3-0 and 4-2 leads.
"If we had lost 8-5 I don't know how David would react or how the crowd would have reacted to him," said Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau. "Now we won't have to hear about Jose coming back and beating us for the next few weeks.
"We won - and it's over."
Theodore was beaten by Michael Ryder during a five-on-three 29 seconds into the third period, then saw the floodgates open for goals by Craig Rivet, Chris Higgins, Alex Kovalev and Mike Johnson.
Sheldon Souray got his fourth and fifth power-play goals of the season and had two assists, while Sergei Samsonov also scored for Montreal (4-1-2), which went 4-for-8 with the man advantage.
Colorado (3-3-2) had two goals from Andrew Brunette and singles from Joe Sakic, Tyler Arnason and Paul Stastny, the son of former Quebec Nordiques star Peter Stastny who scored his first NHL goal.
"We had the momentum until they started hitting us with all those penalties," said Theodore. "That five-on-three in the third period really killed us."
The Avalanche, coming off big wins in Toronto and Ottawa, stormed out the gates but let slip away a game they hoped to win for their US$5.5 million goalie, the Hart and Vezina trophy winner with Montreal in 2001-02.
Instead, it was another weak game in what has been an up-and-down start to the season for Theodore.
"He wanted this game so badly and it didn't work out, so obviously, he's upset," said Brunette. "I think Abby and Theo both played great.
"I think we should be ashamed of ourselves for the effort we put out for Theo tonight."
Colorado outshot Montreal 38-36 in a game marked by numerous chances for both teams.
It was also the homecoming match for former Canadiens defenceman Patrice Brisebois, who had two assists despite being booed.
And early on, it looked like Aebischer would be the one left with a red face as Theodore was solid early on, only to see his team crumble as Montreal turned on the heat.
In the first period, it was as though the clock was turned back 15 years and the Avalanche were still the Nordiques as scorers named Stastny and Sakic led Colorado to a 3-1 lead.
Sakic converted a Marek Svatos pass into an open side on a rush at 15:26 and set up Brunette's goal only 26 seconds later.
Stastny's shot on Milan Hejduk's rebound trickled past Aebischer at 16:42 for a 3-0 lead that left the Canadiens in a deep hole. Carbonneau said he never considered pulling Aebischer for Cristobal Huet.
"Everyone knew the emotion of Jose and Patrice coming back, but at the end of the day, it was more important for David to win than anything else," Carbonneau said. "I think this will be a big boost for him and the team."
Souray got Montreal back in the game with his first of the night on a point shot on a power play that beat Theodore stick-side at 17:20. He pounded in another with the man advantage 4:22 into the second frame.
Arnason, son of former Canadien Chuck Arnason, redirected a swiped shot by Wojtek Wolski into an open side at 6:26 but Samsonov got it back when he converted a Kovalev pass at 9:23.
Montreal was on its second two-man advantage of the game when Saku Koivu, who had three assists, slipped a pass across the crease and Ryder shot into an open net to tie the game only 29 seconds into the third period.
Rivet had just come out of the penalty box when he was sent in on a breakaway to beat Theodore to the stick side for the go-ahead goal at 5:40.
Brunette got that back on a power play at 8:43, but Higgins tipped in Koivu's rebound at 10:55, Kovalev got one at 12:48 and Johnson finished it off at 13:54 by beating Theodore with a long shot.
Notes - D Kurt Sauer and F George Parros (shoulder) sat out for Colorado while Mathieu Dandenault (leg) and Aaron Downey (concussion) missed for Montreal. . . John-Michael Liles wore No. 4 and Stastny No. 26 as Liles gave up the jersey so his teammate could wear his father's old number.