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KOIVU LEADS CANADIENS TO WIN

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In a town that fell in love with the Flying Frenchmen, hockey fans have opened their hearts to a flashy Finn.

In just his second year with the Montreal Canadiens, Saku Koivu is fast becoming the biggest star on the league's most storied team. He was the main reason Montreal won its season-high third straight game Monday night, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 in the only NHL game played.Koivu had a goal and two assists, centering a line with Mark Recchi and Brian Savage that accounted for all of Montreal's goals.

Savage scored twice and added an assist and Recchi scored his team-leading 12th goal and added an assist, giving Montreal its fourth win in five games before a crowd of 20,685 at the Molson Centre.

"He's doing a great job," Recchi said of Koivu, the Canadiens' first-round draft choice in 1993 out of the Finnish Elite League. "He's working hard, he's controlling the puck. When he controls the puck, he controls the game. He can bring it to his speed."

The three-point night gave Koivu 33 (11-22) on the season, moving him into third place among the league scoring leaders. He trails only Colorado's high-scoring duo of Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic, who have 35 points each.

"I think he's as good a player as they are," Recchi said of Koivu. "He's definitely on a par with them, but I don't think he thinks about that stuff. He just wants to win hockey games. He doesn't worry about being first in the league or second in the league. He just wants to do a good job for the hockey club."

Koivu isn't one to bask in the glow of his success. He preferred to speak about the improved defensive play of the Canadiens, who have allowed 10 goals in winning four of their last five games.