Takeaways: Canadiens prevail in instant classic over Jets

The Canadiens battled back from down 4-2 in the third to send the game to overtime, with captain Max Pacioretty scoring the winner to beat the Jets 5-4.

It was a game made for Saturday night, an instant classic between the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets that ended in dramatic fashion.

It should’ve been a blowout in favour of the Canadiens, but nothing has come easy for them in the early part of this season. They had come into the game with a 4-8-1 record and licking their wounds from a 6-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. To make matters worse, goaltender Carey Price had been sidelined by a lower-body injury.

The Canadiens had a 2-1 lead late in the second period on Saturday – they were dominating the Jets to that point – and then Winnipeg forward Andrew Copp tied the game with less than three minutes left in the frame. They had launched 38 shots at Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck before Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers gave his team a 3-2 lead on his team’s 13th.

Jets captain Blake Wheeler made it 4-2 just over two minutes later — a goal that could’ve sent the Canadiens reeling.

Instead the boys in bleu, blanc et rouge got goals from Tomas Plekanec and Jeff Petry, and Max Pacioretty sealed the 5-4 win in overtime on their 50th shot of the night.

Like we said; instant classic. No question. Here are four takeaways from it.

Pacioretty gets the power-play monkey off his back

He hadn’t scored a power-play goal since February of last season, over 35 games played without finding the back of the net on the man advantage. Not exactly a flattering statistic for a player who’s scored more goals over the last five seasons than 96 per cent of the NHL’s other forwards.

It had become a talking point in Montreal — on just about every sports radio show in the city this past week. So it was good timing when Pacioretty found some open ice in the slot with 2:53 to play in overtime. There were 43 seconds remaining on Montreal’s 4-on-3 power play, with Jets defenceman Tyler Myers serving a penalty for cross-checking, and the Canadiens captain ripped his patented wrist shot by Hellebuyck and celebrated like his hair was on fire.

Gallagher the catalyst, again

It had been a torturous 14 months for Brendan Gallagher, bookended by shots from New York Islanders defenceman Johnny Boychuk and teammate Shea Weber that broke fingers on his left hand.

Boychuk’s shot in November of 2015 had caused damage that Gallagher would later admit had forever altered his hand. Surgery to insert pins and screws had taken away some of the power needed to generate force on the bottom half of his hockey stick. Weber’s shot in January of 2017 hadn’t helped.

Let’s just say Gallagher’s 10 goals in 64 games last season were a product of that. He had scored 19 in 53 games of 2015-16, 24 in 82 games the year before and 19 in 81 games in 2013-14. His output in 2016-17 led many to wonder if that would be the new standard to expect from him, but so far he’s proving it was an anomaly.

With six goals and four assists in Montreal’s first 13 games, he was tied with Weber for the team lead in scoring. His dogged determination to dig a puck out of the corner and set up Plekanec to cut into Winnipeg’s 4-2 lead was the turning point of the game.

Montoya with game-savers

The man who had played 35 games for the Jets from 2012-14 may have allowed four goals, but without two saves he made on Patrik Laine his team would’ve surely lost this one.

It was late in the second period, before Copp tied the game 2-2, that Laine broke through the Canadiens defence and was halfway to deking Montoya when the goaltender stuck his right pad out and stopped his momentum.

A glove save late in the third stopped a 10-bell chance from Laine that would’ve buried the Canadiens.

Considering the stakes, with the Canadiens coming off a bad night in Minnesota and with Price unavailable, no two saves of Montoya’s 20 were bigger.

Andrew Shaw heating up

The feisty Canadiens forward was stuck on two assists through his first 10 games before securing his spot on a line with Pacioretty and centre Phillip Danault.

It was after a 5-4 win over the New York Rangers last Saturday that Pacioretty said that Shaw’s gutsy performance had played a big role in Danault’s four-point night and a very successful outing for their line.

The team hit the road and beat the Ottawa Senators 8-3 on Monday and Shaw was held off the board. But he scored his first goal of the season in Minnesota and notched two on the power play against Winnipeg and now has five points in his last four games.

There’s no question he’s found his groove, and there’s no denying he’s played a big role in helping the Canadiens win four of their last six games.

Not a moment too soon.