TORONTO (AP) ”Desperate hockey” helped the teetering Montreal Canadiens earn two big points Saturday night.
Andrew Shaw scored 1:06 into overtime and Montreal beat Toronto 3-2 for its 14th consecutive victory over the Maple Leafs.
Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk had the other goals for the Canadiens, who increased their Atlantic Division lead to four points over Ottawa and five on Toronto. They are 3-7-1 in the last 11 games and 2-2-0 under new coach Claude Julien.
Article continues below ...
”This is the stretch of the year that gets tough,” said Shaw, who scored his ninth goal of the season and first game-winner in a Montreal uniform. ”There’s tight games and it’s the teams with character and the teams with heart that are going to find the ways to win.”
Carey Price stopped 32 shots for Montreal, including a breakaway by Auston Matthews in overtime. The 19-year-old Matthews scored twice to reach 30 goals in his rookie season, and Frederik Andersen was sharp with 25 saves for Toronto.
”I thought we played very desperate hockey tonight and responded well from our previous game,” said Price, who earned his 259th career win to pass Ken Dryden for sole possession of third place in Canadiens history.
Looking for their first win over Montreal since January 2014, the Maple Leafs got on the board first with a strange goal midway through the opening period.
Matthews drove into the Canadiens zone with speed, pulled up and fired a shot that pinged off the outstretched stick and then arm of Alexei Emelin before bouncing off the ice and in between the pads of Price.
The goal was Matthews’ 11th to open a game this season – tops among NHL players. Jake Gardiner had an assist on the play, giving him a career-high 32 points.
Matthews had two chances to score earlier in the period, but was denied both times by Price.
Struggling to score these days, Montreal nearly evened it up with 55 seconds left in the first. Pacioretty, who leads the team in goals and points, redirected a shot that crept through the pads of Andersen before striking the post.
Pacioretty celebrated for a moment, thinking the puck had crossed the line.
Pacioretty did tie it 7:29 into the second on a Canadiens power play. It was just the third power-play goal this month for Montreal.
Toronto looked to be in fine position moments before the goal, but Zach Hyman held onto the puck in the neutral zone for one extra second and had it swiped. The Canadiens struck back quickly with Galchenyuk feeding the team’s captain for a one-timer, his 29th goal this season.
”Those are the types of efforts that we’re going to continuously need for the rest of the season,” Price said.
Pacioretty came close to scoring again shortly after, but his breakaway attempt was stopped by Andersen.
Galchenyuk gave Montreal the lead at 16:21 when he beat Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri for positioning around the net and deposited a pass from Nikita Nesterov.
Price was sharp in the second, when Toronto outshot Montreal 12-5. He turned aside good chances for Connor Brown and Matthews on a Maple Leafs power play, stopping all eight of their shots with the man advantage.
”He was our best player tonight,” Shaw said.
Matthews tied it 2-all 1:19 into the third, just getting his stick on a feed from Hyman. Matthews joined Wendel Clark and Daniel Marois as the only Maple Leafs rookies to score 30 goals. The American center also pulled even with Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine for the NHL lead among rookies in goals and points (54).
Montreal put some pressure on the Maple Leafs following the goal, but Andersen stood tall as an excitable crowd packed with fans of both squads howled. The 27-year-old goalie stopped all 10 shots he faced in the third.
Matthews nearly completed a hat trick in overtime, but his breakaway attempt was stopped by the knob of Price’s stick.
”I think we’ve been working hard and competing and doing the little things right, so it’s about time the bounces started going our way,” Shaw said.
The Maple Leafs equaled their point total from last season (69) by getting to overtime, but coach Mike Babcock noted the ”big step is we’re getting to play in real hockey games that matter.”
Babcock was pleased with his team’s effort and paid little mind to Montreal’s three-year winning streak over Toronto – most of which preceded his hiring as coach.
”Did I want to win tonight? Yes,” Babcock said. ”Are we going to beat Montreal? Yes.”
NOTES: The Maple Leafs played without Mitch Marner and Tyler Bozak. Marner missed his fifth straight game with an apparent right shoulder injury. … Matthews needs five goals to break Clark’s rookie franchise record of 34. … The Canadiens entered with only 13 goals in their previous 10 games.