MONTREAL – Max Pacioretty experienced what he called the greatest feeling he's had in hockey when his overtime winner capped a two-goal Montreal Canadiens' comeback in the third period to beat the Boston Bruins 3-2 on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
His celebration, however, could probably use some work.
As Pacioretty raised his hands in the air he skated by Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and, for some reason he couldn't identify, decided to give him a shove.
All 6-foot-9 of him.
That turned into a little melee between Chara and Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill, while Scott Gomez and Steve Kampfer also got into it, but ultimately nothing much came of it.
Still, Pacioretty was pretty embarrassed afterwards.
"I don't know what I was thinking," Pacioretty said. "I tried to stay away. I feel bad for the guys that went in there and stood up for me."
He shouldn't feel too bad, because the Canadiens' (23-16-3) dressing room was a pretty happy place afterwards as the team came back to win a game it trailed going into the third period for the first time in 17 tries this season.
Pacioretty's goal at 3:43 of overtime, a snap shot from the high slot through a screen and that found its way past Tim Thomas, capped a tremendous finish to a game the Canadiens began very poorly.
Montreal outshot the Bruins 23-8 from the start of the third period onward, and Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said that by his team's count the scoring chances were 10-2 in their favor.
"It was a total turnaround," Martin said. "We showed more intensity and started winning our 1-on-1 battles."
Gomez and Brian Gionta scored goals in the final 2:22 of regulation to tie the game for the Canadiens after the Bruins (21-12-7) controlled the first 40 minutes of play.
Carey Price had another strong game in goal with 27 saves for the Canadiens, who won their third straight.
Patrice Bergeron scored twice and Thomas made 39 saves for Boston, but he couldn't withstand the Canadiens' comeback push in the third as Montreal outshot the Bruins 18-8 over the final 20 minutes of regulation, and 5-0 in overtime.
"They found a way to win a game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said, "and we found a way to give it to them."
Bergeron continued his offensive tear with 5 goals and 7 assists in his last 11 games.
The Bruins have only one win in 5 games, but have still collected at least a point in 7 of their last 8 (4-1-3).
The point for the overtime loss will allow Boston to maintain its lead in the Northeast Division even though they are tied with the Canadiens for points with 49, but have played two fewer games.
Canadiens left wing Michael Cammalleri left the game early in the second period, but Martin said it was due to an illness.
Trailing 2-0 entering the third period, things looked pretty grim for the Canadiens, considering they had an 0-15-1 record when playing from behind with only 20 minutes to play.
But Montreal took control of the play and it looked to have paid off at 7:57 of the third when Mathieu Darche batted a rebound out of the air past Thomas, but the goal was disallowed because it was hit by a high stick, a call that withstood a video review.
"I think it gave us some momentum," Martin said of the disallowed goal. "We had some good chances and finally got one in. It didn't count, but we continued to apply pressure."
The Canadiens got it back at 17:38 when, with Michael Ryder in the penalty box, Gomez banked one off both Andrew Ference and Chara past Thomas to bring Montreal to within a goal.
"We showed we're not going to stop, and that was the goal we needed," Gomez said. "It was pretty lucky, but we'll take it."
Then, with the Canadiens' net empty, James Wisniewski's shot from the point bounced in off Gionta's skate with only 47.7 seconds to play in regulation for the Montreal captain's 15th of the season. The play was reviewed and was upheld because Gionta did not kick the puck in.
For Wisniewski, it gave him 2 goals and 4 assists in 5 games since being acquired in a Dec. 28 trade with the New York Islanders. Among those 6 points, there's an overtime winner, and assists on two other game-tying goals in the third period.
"That's kind of what I'm out there to do, that's what they're leaning on me to do," Wisniewski said. "I've got to take responsibility and pride in doing my job."
With first place in the division on the line both teams said this game should feature a playoff-like intensity, but the first period was more tentative than anything, with only a handful of chances on either side.
But the Bruins capitalized on the first glaring error of the game, as Alexandre Picard had his attempt at a breakout pass picked off by Brad Marchand, and two quick passes later Bergeron put it past a helpless Price to put Boston ahead at 4:18 of the second period.
Bergeron struck again at 12:27 of the middle frame, beating Gomez to a rebound off a Chara point shot and sliding it past Price for his 10th of the season.
The Canadiens made life relatively easy for Thomas over the opening 40 minutes, getting only 19 shots on goal, with few of them coming from within 15 feet of the net. But the Bruins goalie faced an onslaught over the final 20 minutes as Montreal began playing with some purpose.