MONTREAL (AP) _ Alex Kovalev finally showed up in Montreal, just in time to get the Canadiens back in the playoff hunt.
Kovalev scored two first-period goals, both assisted by goalie Jose Theodore, and Montreal beat the Boston Bruins 3-2 Sunday night.
Andrei Markov also scored for the Canadiens, who now trail their first-round playoff series 2-1 after scoring just once while losing the first two games in Boston.
An enthusiastic, sellout Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 erupted in cheers on both of Kovalev's goals, each of them giving Montreal a lead, the second one for good.
``There was frustration at the end of the season because I hadn't scored many goals, but the fans stayed behind me,'' Kovalev said. ``I wanted to show them the player I am and to come up big. I knew that if I kept working on my game that eventually it would turn around. I knew I was getting close. I was getting more comfortable.''
Kovalev had just four points, including an assist on Patrice Brisebois' goal in Friday's 2-1 overtime loss, in his first 14 games with the Canadiens, who acquired him in a trade with the New York Rangers on March 2.
``You guys have been giving him a hard time since he got here, but he's one of the most talented guys in the league and he can do that any night,'' Bruins goalie Andrew Raycroft said.
Theodore set up the rushes that led to both goals and became just the third goalie to record two assists in an NHL playoff game, and the second _ following Edmonton's Grant Fuhr _ to do so in the same period.
``When I moved the puck and made the right play, I was able to beat one or two guys with the pass, and they did the rest,'' Theodore said. ``It was just fun to hear my name like that for the two assists.''
Boston's Andy Hilbert scored in his first career playoff game in the first period, and Brian Rolston drew the Bruins within one when he scored early in the third.
Hilbert was in the lineup in place of center Michael Nylander, who the team said had a flu. Nylander led Boston with two goals and two assists in the first two games.
``When I went out there before the game I had such chills and goose bumps going up my spine, I didn't even know I had a helmet on,'' Hilbert said. ``It was really exciting to get my first game in, but hopefully next time we can pull out a (win).''
Theodore, who allowed rookie Patrice Bergeron's goal 1:26 into overtime Friday, made 21 saves. Raycroft, who had a shutout in his first playoff game Wednesday, stopped 29 shots.
Electrified by a pregame slide show on the ice depicting their storied franchise's 24 Stanley Cup-winning teams and Hall-of-Fame legends Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur, the Montreal fans were ready for a current player to step forward.
Kovalev was ready to be that player, with a little help from Theodore.
Trailing a rush initiated by Theodore and led by Canadiens captain Saku Koivu, the Russian winger came through the slot and took a backhand pass from Koivu before beating Raycroft from a sharp angle 2:16 into the game.
``It was a must win for us,'' Koivu said. ``The first game at home and being down 2-0, obviously there's a chance of being too emotional and getting away from the game plan. But I thought we controlled our emotions pretty well and we were able to get the first goal, and that kind of helped us at the beginning.''
Despite playing just 31 seconds in the opening period, Hilbert tied it at 6:34. He stopped Montreal defenseman Sheldon Souray's clearing attempt at the blue line and beat Theodore with a long wrist shot.
Theodore started another scoring play that led to Kovalev's second goal at 15:24. The goalie gave the puck to defenseman Craig Rivet, who shot along the right boards from behind Montreal's net.
Kovalev flipped the puck past defenseman Hal Gill at the Canadiens' blue line and broke down the ice on a two-on-one with Richard Zednik before beating Raycroft with a quick shot from the faceoff circle into the top right corner.
Markov gave Montreal a two-goal lead when he scored on a 4-on-4 in the second period. Koivu got his second assist on the goal as Markov scored into an open left side off a rebound of Zednik's shot.
Rolston ensured a tight finish when he scored 3:35 into the third period on a slap shot that struck Theodore's left skate and beat him through the legs.
``They were a lot more desperate than we were tonight,'' Raycroft said. ``We know we're still in the driver's seat and we just have to come out and put forth the same effort we had in Boston.''
The Bruins got riled about an apparent injury to Montreal's Mike Ribeiro in the final minute. Ribeiro lay on the ice after colliding with Boston's Mike Knuble, yet remained on the bench for the end of the game.
``Obviously as you can see he got hurt really badly and I really felt bad for him,'' Bruins right wing Martin Lapointe said sarcastically. ``The way he acted out there, I thought he needed a stretcher.''