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HABS WEATHER SAVAGE STORM TO END THREE-GAME LOSING STREAK

MONTREAL -- Just above Brian Savage's stall in the Montreal locker room hangs a portrait of a boyhood idol -- Guy Lafleur.

The two have not seen eye-to-eye of late, but Savage answered the Hall of Famer's recent criticism with a game-winning goal as the Canadiens ended a three-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.

"It would be nice to have support from our former players instead of them carving us," Savage said. "But I agreed with him.

"We've been playing very average hockey. He had some good comments."

Lafleur blasted the slumping Canadiens on a trip to Newfoundland last week for lacking pride, singling out Savage for demanding to be paid like a 35-goal scorer without ever having scored that many.

On Monday night, Savage rushed down the left side and blasted a shot past Stephane Fiset 4:02 into the third period for his sixth goal in 16 games -- a 30-goal pace. Martin Rucinsky followed with a similar goal down the left side 1:14 later.

Saku Koivu scored a fortunate goal in the second period for Montreal (8-12-2), which won for only the second time in nine games.

Glen Murray beat Jeff Hackett with a knuckling point shot with 3:33 left in the game for the Kings (6-14-3), who lost for the eighth time in nine games.

"We're just not paying the price," said Kings coach Larry Robinson, whose portrait also hangs in the Montreal room. "That's the bottom line. . . . They've got to get some intestinal fortitude and sacrifice themselves by going to the net."

The injury-struck Canadiens have been under pressure from their ever-demanding fans of late, and none felt it more than Savage.

"I don't know why (Lafleur) singled me out," said Savage. "Obviously, it bothered me. But I talked to some people, like (general manager) Rejean Houle, and they told me not to worry, that's the way he is. After that I felt better about it."

The next time he sees Lafleur, Savage said, he'll just say hello.

"He can say what he wants" Savage smiled. "I'm not going to get into a war with Guy Lafleur in this town."

An otherwise sharp Fiset, who made 27 saves in his first start for the Kings since he suffered his second groin strain of the season on Oct. 28, held off the Canadiens until Koivu sped over the blue line on a power play, went around Steve Duchesne and slid the puck at the net. Fiset made a toe save, but defenseman Sean O'Donnell tapped the rebound into his own net 6:17 into the second period.

"When a guy shoots along the ice, it's tough to see where the puck is going to go," said Fiset. "Most of the time, I'll keep the rebound in front of me, but I reacted at the last second and so did Sean.

"We were both surprised."

"They were struggling," said O'Donnell. "They needed a goal like that and they got it."

Robinson said Fiset "made some great stops for us."

"Rucinsky's goal was right inside the post and Savage's was a cannon. On Koivu's goal, it showed how when things are going bad, they can always go worse."

Flyers keep up with Jones

PHILADELPHIA -- Keith Jones stands in front of lockers belonging to two Philadelphia teammates. Only the most ardent hockey junkies would recognize that he didn't belong there.

Smiling awkwardly, he tries to explain his six-game reign as an unstoppable scorer on one of the NHL's most intimidating lines.

"To have the feeling that you can score on every shift is a great feeling," said Jones, who has five goals in the six games with the Flyers -- all Philadelphia victories. "I'm just glad to be a part of it."

Jones, who's bounced around for 10 years without much of an impact, is more than part of it. He's taken the Eric Lindros and John LeClair line and turned it into a fearsome machine.

Since the Flyers acquired Jones from Colorado for Shjon Podein on Nov. 12, Philadelphia's first line has 17 goals and 23 assists in his six games. LeClair scored four goals, Lindros had four assists and Jones had a goal and two assists Sunday night as the Flyers beat Vancouver, 6-2, for their sixth win in seven games after an 0-5-2 drought.

"He's a very annoying guy to play against," said Lindros, who's played with seven right wings since the Flyers traded Mikael Renberg in 1997. "He works real hard, he's got great hands and he can put the puck in the net."

The Flyers have been Jones-ing for a right wing to complement Lindros and LeClair since the Renberg trade.

The line has been so dominant that locals are daring to utter the nickname "Legion of Doom."

"When these guys get going with their speed and strength, they get revved up," said Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall. "I don't think there's a five-man defensive unit in the league that can stop them."

Jones, who turned 30 this month, hails from the same hometown as Wayne Gretzky. His brushes with greatness pretty much end there -- he's scored as many as 20 goals only once.

Jones started his career with Western Michigan of the CCHA in 1988, then shuttled between the AHL, the Washington Capitals and the Colorado Avalanche for six years. The Flyers' failed experiment with rookie Mike Maneluk (traded to Chicago) left a hole on the Lindros-LeClair line that Jones has filled nicely.

"Down low, they are probably the best line in the league," said Flyers coach Roger Neilson. "Lindros and LeClair are so big that one guy cannot always take them. That draws forwards in and leaves the points open, and Jones seems to fit so well."

At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Jones is big. And he has a big mouth, constantly talking to Lindros, LeClair, defensemen, sometimes even himself.

Jones seems dumbfounded by the success of the line, smiling and cracking jokes when asked about it. He's probably been featured in sports highlights more in six games with the Flyers than throughout his career.

Follow the frozen puck

Continuing its effort to improve playing conditions, the NHL has ordered teams to keep pucks in a freezer instead of a bucket at the penalty bench. In addition, pucks will be changed at every commercial break and snow will be cleared at designated breaks. Those changes should result in truer bounces.

The league is already phasing in a directive limiting warm-ups before the second and third periods to players starting that period. Those who go for an extra skate will get a minor penalty, starting next Monday.

Bryan Lewis, the NHL's director of officiating, said players will have ample time to stretch and get loose before taking to the ice.

"They have the pregame warm-up and an opportunity at the end of the period to test a sore knee," he said. "Someone can also go to an official and say, 'I left at the end of the second and I want to check my knee,' and there can be leeway."

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