Conor Garland had the winner in the second period as Vancouver held on for a 2-1 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre as the Canucks snapped a four-game losing skid.
“There’s a lot of adversity around our group,” said head coach Travis Green. “We’ve talked about before the game, things are going tough, we’re going through adversity. It shows a lot about the players as individuals, it shows a lot about the team and how you respond.
“We talked about character and times like this reveal a lot about players and teams.”
Elias Petterson had a power-play goal for Vancouver (7-14-2) and Thatcher Demko made 33 saves in net.
After winning three of nine games against the Canadiens (6-16-2) in last season’s North Division, the Canucks picked up their first regulation win in Montreal since 2007.
“It felt great,” Petterson said about getting a win at Bell Centre. “They didn’t start their season that well either so both teams were fighting for points.”
Petterson scored his first goal since Nov. 9 and admitted that he struggled with confidence.
“I feel like everything is confidence,” Petterson said. “It’s a slow start for me personally. I’ve been having a tendency to overthink and kind of going away from hard work. Today, I was just thinking about working as hard as possible and it’s definitely nice to get one on the power play too.”
The Canadiens loss came a day after team president and CEO Geoff Molson cleaned house by firing general manager Marc Bergevin.
Molson called head coach Dominique Ducharme on Sunday to ask to speak with the players before holding a press conference Monday morning.
“It was obviously two emotional days,” Ducharme said. “We all worked with Marc on the day-to-day, three-and-a-half years for myself. He’s someone I have a lot of respect for and a lot of our veterans lose someone that had the success and happiness of everyone at heart.”
“It’s different,” said Brendan Gallagher about his feelings before the game. “I’ve gone through coaching changes, I’ve had my friends and teammates traded but Berg was always someone that was a staple here. So for me personally, it was a bit different.”
The Habs tried to mount a late comeback but they were stopped in their tracks by the Canucks penalty kill and Demko’s impressive play.
“I’ve been wanting to find some more key saves in my game in the last little bit,” said Demko. “I don’t think my game’s been bad but I think there’s always room for improvement. It seems like we’re losing by one goal every night so it was an important game for us today.
“You could feel right from the puck drop that it was going to be a tight game. There wasn’t going to be much out there so every play was pretty important.”
Jake Allen stopped 40 shots for the Canadiens, his second straight game with 40 saves or more. Ryan Poehling picked up his fourth goal in ten games for Montreal.
Quinn Hughes and Petterson teamed up for a one-timer to open scoring on the power play eight minutes into the first period.
Poehling levelled things at 1-1 just before the end of the first. After starting the year in the American Hockey League, Poehling is now tied with Nick Suzuki for goals by Habs centremen with four.
Garland brought Vancouver back on top in the second period. Bo Horvat intercepted Josh Anderson’s no-look pass along the boards and passed to Garland who scored his seventh of the season.
With two power-play opportunities against the Canucks, the worst penalty-killing unit in the NHL, Montreal still couldn’t find the back of the net with the man advantage.