TORONTO – The Montreal Canadiens held off the Toronto Maple Leafs for a badly needed 3-2 win via shootout Saturday night, ending a five-game winless stretch.
Max Pacioretty and Lars Eller scored for the Habs in the five-round shootout. Peter Holland had the lone Toronto success in the shootout which followed an action-packed overtime that saw both teams with chances to end it.
Toronto’s Josh Leivo was penalized with 3:06 remaining in the third period for delay of the game when he took a swing at the puck with his stick and knocked it over the glass. But Montreal could not capitalize, its power play 0 for 4 in regulation time.
After a dire first-period that saw them fall behind 2-0, the Maple Leafs rallied in the second to cut the lead to 2-1. And they tied it up at 4:37 of the third period when Joffrey Lupul put away a rebound of a Holland shot that Mike Condon could not hang onto. It was his 11th of the season.
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Nazem Kadri also scored for Toronto (17-20-9). Morgan Rielly had two assists in his 200th NHL game.
David Desharnais and Tomas Fleischmann scored for Montreal (24-20-4), which outshot Toronto 26-15 in regulation play.
James Reimer made a big stop on Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher midway through the third to preserve the 2-2 tie. The Leafs goalie got some help when a Canadiens shot hit one post, trickled along the goalline, hitting the other post but staying out.
The Original Six matchup was enhanced by a pre-game ceremony honouring Dave Keon and the late Turk Broda and Tim Horton for their induction into the Leafs’ Legends Row.
But it took the Habs just 1:41 to end the festivities with Desharnais beating Reimer on the Habs’ first shot after the Leafs failed to clear their zone and Dale Weise, attracting three Toronto players in the slot, found Desharnais alone in the face-off circle to the right of Reimer. It was his ninth of the season.
Montreal arrived just eight points ahead of Toronto, which has two games in hand. The Canadiens were winless in five (0-4-1) and had won just two of their previous nine (2-6-1).
The Leafs weren’t much better with a 1-5-1 run coming into the game.
The Canadiens won their first nine games of the season and were sitting pretty Dec. 1 with a 19-4-3 record. But coming into Saturday’s game, they had gone 4-16-1 since and dropped out of a post-season position.
Montreal star goalie Carey Price has been sidelined since suffering a lower-body injury Oct. 29 in a 4-3 defeat in Edmonton. The Habs were 9-2-0 at the time.
Price’s replacement had a cushy start to Saturday’s contest, played before an Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,807. The Canadiens had 12 shots on Reimer before Condon faced a shot at the other end, a dribbler with 8:30 left in the first period.
READ MORE: Maple Leafs induct Keon, Broda, Horton to Legends Row
Fleischmann scored his ninth of the season with shot No. 14 late in the period, beating Reimer with a shot from the slot after a nifty drop pass by Eller.
Montreal outshot Toronto 14-3 in the period. The Leafs pushed back to start the second and got some reward midway through the period when Rielly, flying down the flank, found Kadri charging to the front of goal. The Leafs centre redirected the puck past Condon for his ninth of the season.
Toronto outshot Montreal 8-5 in the period, which ended with Kadri jousting with P.K. Subban.
Earlier in the day, the 75-year-old Keon spoke to the Leafs players and coaches.
“I think it’s important to be around people like that,” said Toronto coach Mike Babcock.
Thawing out the previously icy relationship between Keon and the Leafs marks another step in the franchise’s ongoing bid to rectify past mistakes.
The compact centre who wore No. 14 remains a Leaf icon, albeit for those with likely more than a touch of grey in their hair. Keon, who could score goals and stop them, won four Stanley Cups with the Leafs and left the team in 1975 as its all-time leading scorer with 365 goals. He still stands third in team goal-scoring behind Mats Sundin (420) and Darryl Sittler (389).