Matt Beleskey scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period to lead the Anaheim Ducks to a 2-1 victory over Montreal on Thursday night in a game the Canadiens lost top scorer Max Pacioretty to an injury.
Hampus Lindholm also scored for Anaheim and Frederik Andersen made 23 saves for his 18th win of the season. The Ducks have won eight of their last nine.
David Desharnais scored for Montreal, while Carey Price stopped 21 shots.
Pacioretty left the game 4 minutes into the third period after taking a late hit into the boards by Anaheim’s Clayton Stoner. Pacioretty spent several seconds on his knees on the ice before being helped to the dressing room by the Canadiens training staff.
There was no call on the play.
With P.K. Subban just stepping out of the penalty box, Beleskey got the go-ahead score – his team-leading 15th goal of the season – by beating Price top corner, blocker-side at 8:33 of the third period.
Prior to puck drop, the Canadiens honored former captain Saku Koivu, who retired from professional hockey in September after 13 seasons with Montreal and five with the Ducks. After a video montage of tributes from fans, former teammates and trainers, an emotional Koivu thanked the city he called home for most of his career.
"I feel honored and privileged to have served nine years as captain of the Montreal Canadiens," Koivu told the Bell Centre crowd. "Montreal truly is the most exciting place to play hockey. I’m truly humbled, and this night means so much to me and to my family. I will always be a Hab at heart."
When the puck finally dropped, the Ducks quickly showed why they are at the top of the NHL standings.
The Ducks ran circles around the Canadiens from the get-go, keeping Montreal’s fourth line back in its own zone for nearly 3 minutes. Montreal countered with desperation icings, and head coach Michel Therrien was forced to take a timeout early in the game with his team being outshot 7-1.
Price could do little to stop the Ducks’ eighth shot, as Lindholm sent a puck past two players and into the back of the net at 8:16 of the first.
The Canadiens, the league’s worst first-period team, failed to score in the opening 20 minutes for the 23rd time this season.
Beleskey: "Good teams never want to lose two in a row. I thought we played a sound game, Freddy played great and we got a huge two points."
Shortly after Pacioretty headed to the dressing room with his injury, the Canadiens tied the score at 5:27 of the third. With Patrick Maroon in the box for interference, Desharnais fired a one-timer past Andersen after a clever cross-ice pass from Andrei Markov.
Sergei Gonchar came close to tying the score again in the game’s final minute with Montreal’s net empty, but the veteran defenseman instead found the outside of the post.
NOTES: Forward Sven Andrighetto was sent down to Hamilton of the AHL on Wednesday. The 21-year-old had three points in four games with Montreal this season. … Corey Perry missed the game with a knee injury sustained on Dec. 5. … Lars Eller was not in the lineup (upper-body injury) despite taking part in the pre-game skate. … Markov, Price, Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec presented Koivu with a commemorative painting before the game.