In his first NHL game in two years, Tokarski made 39 saves in regulation and overtime and stopped four of six shootout attempts to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 4-3 win against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center.
Andrei Markov scored in the sixth round after Tokarski stopped Saku Koivu to end an eventful day. Tokarski found out he was starting before the morning skate after coach Michel Therrien decided to give Peter Budaj a rest.
"It's a whirlwind," Tokarski said. "I tried to lay down for a couple of hours of sleep, but I was just thinking the whole afternoon. I didn't get much [sleep]. It was a great day."
Markov beat Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller with a wrist shot on the left side of the net. Markov was Therrien's first choice among his defenseman for the shootout, and Markov joked that, "I just went there and closed my eyes and [shot] the puck."
Anaheim's Kyle Palmieri nearly scored in the fifth round when his shot his each goal post and skidded on the goal line, but it was reviewed and negated. Tokarski's and Palmieri's body language suggested they thought Palmieri scored.
"I definitely did," Tokarski said. "I walked away. I was a little upset. But I get some breaks every once in a while."
Montreal, which landed top rental wing Vanek from the New York Islanders moments before the NHL Trade Deadline, generated 31 shots and forced a 3-3 tie going into the third on Brendan Gallagher's goal at 19:24 of the second. Gallagher picked the loose puck out from a scrum for his 16th goal.
Unlikely scorers Tim Jackman, Daniel Winnik and Francois Beauchemin helped the Ducks overcome a sleepy start. The three combined for six goals going into the game, but Jackman deflected defenseman-turned-forward Luca Sbisa's shot at 7:08 of the second and Winnik batted in Matt Beleskey's rebound at 18:11.
For all the talk about Anaheim's depth, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau found himself shorthanded because right wing Teemu Selane was scratched with the flu and center Mathieu Perreault was placed on injured reserve, retroactive to Feb.28. Sbisa played left wing.
The Ducks have been able to erase bad starts, but Boudreau wasn't happy being in such a position.
"I think the first 10 minutes everybody was still thinking about every trade that went on today and every movement that went on," Boudreau said. "They weren't preparing the proper way. Consequently, we were behind the eight-ball and we had to battle in the second and third just to stay even."
Tokarski appeared in his first NHL game since March 19, 2012. The 24-year-old was mostly solid, but he was victimized by a random bounce that allowed Anaheim to tie it 2-2.
Beauchemin dumped the puck in from the red line and it caromed off a stanchion and into the open net at 9:07 of the second after Tokarski went behind his goal. It came with Alexei Emelin serving his second minor penalty of the night and Tokarski stood in disbelief.
"I made an error," he said. "I should have stayed in my net. The scouting report said there was bad glass. Lapse of judgment there."
Hiller was half-joking when he said of the play, "It's about time it happened to somebody else. I always get those bounces … it was good for us there. But at the same time, we should definitely improve the power play [if] that's the only way we can score power-play goals."
Tokarski stopped the first 18 shots, including eight on a Ducks power play, after it took Anaheim more than 10 minutes to record a shot.
"They took it to us in the first period, but I think the last 40 minutes, we played pretty well," Palmieri said. "It's one of those things that we've been struggling a little bit with our consistency. Going into our next game, we want to get off to a good start, because usually when we do that we play pretty well."
Gionta whacked the puck in past Hiller at 8:23 of the first after the puck bounced toward the goal off a faceoff. Pacioretty scored from the right side on a threaded pass from David Desharnais to finish a rush at 12:26. Pacioretty has four goals in four games and reached the 30-goal plateau for the second time in his career.
Anaheim general manager Bob Murray spoke before the game and said he tried hard to land one more piece – presumably Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler – and even tried to get a rental player for "a couple of draft picks."
"But, in saying that, I wasn't going to and did not offer any player off this roster because I strongly believe -- and I can't say it enough -- that this team is good enough," Murray said.
"They've already proven they don't need any help. They've proven they can play."
The Ducks also announced that defenseman Sami Vatanen is being evaluated for a lower-body injury.
Newly-acquired defenseman Mike Weaver was scratched for Montreal.