Habs beat Leafs 4-3 in nailbiter
Published Saturday, March 22, 2014 9:43PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, March 23, 2014 3:00PM EDT
MONTREAL - The Montreal Canadiens took advantage of their first powerplay opportunity of the game Saturday, as Tomas Plekanec scored his 18th of the season on a wrist shot from a bad angle to beat James Reimer at 11:14 of the third period to give the Habs a 4-3 victory over the feisty Toronto Maple Leafs in a seesaw battle.
Leafs’ forward James Van Riemsdyk had been penalized exactly two minutes earlier for barreling into Canadiens’ goalie Carey Price
Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban helped make the Leafs pay by earning assists on what proved to be the game-winning goall.
Toronto forward Nazem Kadri’s powerplay goal at 2:49 of the third period had evened things up at 3-3.
Kadri scored from in close to the right of Carey Price, who had been pulled from side-to-side as Joffrey Lupul navigated behind the net.
Kadri, nestled in a spot between Habs defenders Mike Weaver and Douglas Murray, got Lupul’s pass off quickly for his 18th goal of the season.
The Canadiens found some offence from an unexpected source, as Rene Bourque – who had earned a spot in the press box after notching just 12 points in 53 games - scored a goal and an assist in the first period and appeared to be a force alongside linemates Brian Gionta and Danny Briere.
Bourque sneaked behind the Toronto defence on a Brian Gionta pass and flipped a quick wrist shot past James Reimer’s outstretched glove at 6:52 to give the Habs a 2-0 lead in the first period.
Max Pacioretty had opened the scoring about one minute earlier with another wrist shot to Reimer’s glove side after taking a pass from David Desharnais. Pacioretty’s 31st goal of the season in just 63 games to put him into a tie for seventh place in the NHL for goals scored.
The Leafs scored two straight goals in the second half of the first frame to tie the score at 2-2, as Joffrey Lupul got his 20th and Tyler Bozak his 16th, as the Canadiens’ defence – notably Francis Bouillon on a giveaway behind the net on Lupul's goal - stumbled in its coverage and clearing.
But the Canadiens went into the first intermission with a 3-2 lead thanks to a Gionta goal which was redirected after deflecting off of Leafs’ defenceman Tim Gleason’s stick. Bourque earned an assist on the play.
The Habs outshot the Leafs 13-8 in a scoreless second period, but the Leafs (36-27-8) had the better chances, hitting a pair of goalposts.
Lars Eller left the game late in the third period with what appeared to be a lower body injury. After the game the Canadiens recalled Michael Bournival from Hamilton to replace Eller Bournival had three points in three games for the AHL squad.
The loss was Toronto's fourth straight and allowed the Canadiens to take a five point lead over the Leafs, a possible first-round playoff opponent. Both teams had 36 shots on net and Price's stops included a key save near the end on a streaking Phil Kessel to help with the victory.
The Canadiens are now 39-26-7 and next visit the red-hot Boston Bruins Monday. Following that the Canadiens will only have nine games remaining before the playoffs, five on the road and four at home, including the final regular season game April 12 against the New York Rangers.