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A liquor store is looted after hockey fans celebrating the Montreal Canadiens victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, turned violent in downtown Montreal, May 12, 2010. REUTERS/Shaun Best (SHAUN BEST)
A liquor store is looted after hockey fans celebrating the Montreal Canadiens victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, turned violent in downtown Montreal, May 12, 2010. REUTERS/Shaun Best (SHAUN BEST)

Habs back their fans after celebration marred Add to ...

The Montreal Canadiens have sprung to the defence of their fans after an ugly outburst of looting marred playoff victory celebrations this week.

Players said it was important Friday not to paint the entire fan base with the same brush.

"It's too bad a small group gives a bad name to all Habs fans but it's a minority of people," said forward Mathieu Darche, a Montreal-born Hab.

"We know it's not our fans because we saw them partying in the streets and everyone was in a good mood."

Some 50,000 jubilant fans flooded the downtown core following Wednesday's stunning elimination of the Pittsburgh Penguins. After midnight, when the crowd had already dwindled out, about 500 people began tossing projectiles at police while scores of them looted.

Canadiens coach Jacques Martin preferred to focus on the other 49,500 downtown partygoers, and the hundreds of thousands of others who celebrated at home.

He called the team's rabid fan base instrumental to the club's success so far in the postseason.

"I think we have exceptional fans, we have unbelievable fans and it's unfortunate, the incidents," Martin said.

"But it's only a small number of people, it's a small group, but our fans are exceptional and they are a huge part of our success."

Montreal police asked for the public's help in their pursuit of the estimated 500 trouble-makers.

They said they've created an email address where eyewitnesses can send in the digital evidence they snapped Wednesday.

They will examine photos and videos and publish some in the hope of outing suspects.

One unlucky man has already been splashed across the front cover of a local newspaper, clutching a new bottle of Appleton rum while fleeing a liquor store. The headline reads: "Bunch of Damned Idiots."

They're hoping to capitalize on a widespread feeling of disgust from Montrealers who feel that their city's reputation has been sullied by some bad apples. A similar plea following a night of looting and vandalism during the 2008 NHL playoff triggered an overwhelming public response.

Police arrested 41 people Wednesday on a variety of charges including assault, break and enter, and mischief.

Of the five people who have appeared in court, two were told Friday that they would be remaining behind bars.

The Canadiens have ruled out broadcasting the Habs' next two road games on the giant screen at the Bell Centre.

But the organization says it would consider broadcasting any later road games during the semi-final series.

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