Canadiens' growing confidence leads to first win under St. Louis

Cole Caufield had a pair of goals as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in overtime.

MONTREAL -- For the first time in 11 games, the Montreal Canadiens won.

On this night, against the St. Louis Blues, they absolutely deserved to, even after they went 0-for-5 on the power play and surrendered a shorthanded goal on one of them late in the first period; even after they took three penalties over the final 10 minutes of the third period; even after surrendering a goal with 1:19 left to play in regulation.

The Canadiens weren’t perfect, but they were better in nearly every way than the team that came to the Bell Centre 39 points up on them in the standings.

“It was a good feeling just coming back into the locker room and hearing music,” said Josh Anderson.

We imagine cheering Martin St. Louis’ first win as an NHL head coach was fun, too.

A hand for Paul Byron -- the ever-inspiring 32-year-old who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2007 draft, traded by the Buffalo Sabres and waived by the Calgary Flames before becoming a two-time 20-goal scorer and assistant captain with the Canadiens -- was in order six games into his return from off-season hip surgery. He got his team on the board in the 500th game of his career.

And it’s fair to assume Cole Caufield was celebrated as the player of the game by his teammates after the 21-year-old tied things up 2-2 with 10 seconds remaining in the third period and notched the 3-2 winner at 2:22 of overtime.

That goal wouldn’t have happened if Jeff Petry hadn’t taken advantage of an opening instead of taking a line change.

His season had been Murphy’s Law up until that point. Even in his good games -- he’s gotten better in every one of them with St. Louis behind the bench -- trouble had found him.

But on Thursday, Petry finally looked like the guy who just posted three straight 40-point seasons.

“I thought he was really good tonight,” said Anderson of the defenceman who had two assists, four shots on net and finished plus-1 over 24:17. “Obviously, he was physical when needed. He was up in the play and he was in that shooting mentality, which we all love. He could’ve had a couple tonight. One rang off the post, which would’ve been big. But overall, I thought he had a great game, and I thought everybody did as well.”

From Corey Schueneman to Laurent Dauphin, from Mike Hoffman to Nick Suzuki, the Canadiens got something good out of everyone.

This is what winning requires.

Montreal had been building towards this under St. Louis, adding to the evidence already mounting that the man who was coaching pee-wee hockey just over a week ago is appearing to be a natural coaching NHL hockey.

The Canadiens outshot the Blues 30-27. They controlled the flow of play and the scoring chances for most of the night. When they bent, they didn’t break.

And when they needed to come up with a last-second play to keep their chances of winning alive, they didn’t panic.

Chris Wideman could have just sent the puck on net from his position on the ice, but instead he made a 70-foot, cross-ice pass to Caufield for the one-timer that sent the Canadiens to overtime.

“It’s not just the win, but the way we did it,” said St. Louis. “We fall down 2-1 with a minute to go… Our backs were against the wall and we showed a lot of poise and clarity to make the play we did to tie the game. We could’ve just shot it, but we made a better play. That’s something I’m trying to bring to their thinking is to not only make a play but to look for the better play.”

Finding it is a function of confidence, and St. Louis feels that’s growing within his team.

“I think we’re just getting better and better every day,” he said. “I think we’re applying some of the things we’re talking about, but we’re not bringing so many things at once. We’re just kind of working on one thing at a time. And the more we add, the more it gives us a better chance, especially if the effort is there. It doesn’t matter what you add to your game as a team; if the effort’s not there, if the commitment’s not there, it’s not going to show as much.

“But with the commitment from the boys physically, and how they’re engaged -- and I’m trying to be patient and not give them too much at once -- when they look like they did tonight I just feel like I need to give them something else and keep adding to our playbook a little bit and keep giving us a chance to win even more.”

The Canadiens’ next opportunity will be on Long Island Sunday, in a matinee game against the Islanders.

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