MONTREAL – The 21,273 fans in the seats at Bell Centre wanted it, his Montreal Canadiens
teammates wanted it, and even Tomas Plekanec
But alas, Scott Gomez
's goal drought was assured of passing the one-year mark Sunday afternoon when what looked to be a tip in on the final goal of a 3-0 Canadiens win against the Winnipeg Jets
was ultimately awarded to Plekanec.
"To me at first, I thought Gomer scored right away," Plekanec said. "He told me it wasn't his goal, but I was hoping it was so we can stop talking about it."
What has become such a big topic of conversation in Montreal was Sunday's one-year anniversary of Gomez's last goal on Feb. 5, 2011, running his streak to 59 regular season and playoff games without scoring.
The crowd became animated every time Gomez touched the puck, just as they did the previous day in Montreal's 3-0 loss to Washington, and small pockets of the sellout crowd took to singing him Happy Birthday at various points in the game.
Gomez declined to speak to the media after the game, but goaltender Carey Price
– who made 23 saves for his third shutout of the season and 15th of his career – has been targeted by these Bell Centre fans before and he was not particularly impressed with the crowd’s behavior Sunday.
"He's a teammate of mine and I'll stick up for him every day of the week," Price said. "He's going through a hard time, but we've got to support the guy. It doesn't help putting him down. He's a human being too and he needs help. It's a tough spot to be in.
"He's contributing in other ways. It's hard for him, it's not easy. Things haven't gone his way the last year, but that's alright. He's a leader in our room and he's a big part of our hockey club."
When Plekanec scored his 11th of the season on a Canadiens power play at 11:28 of the second period, replays allowed for the possibility that the puck was tipped in front of Ondrej Pavelec
by Gomez. Bell Centre PA announcer Michel Lacroix waited several minutes to announce the goal, wanting to be certain of who in fact scored it, and the suspense in the building was palpable – particularly in the throes of a difficult season where suspense on the ice has been a rarity.
Finally, after an interminable wait, Lacroix announced the goal belonged to Plekanec – triggering some mild booing from the fans for a goal by the home team.
"To be honest, I didn't even pay attention," Plekanec said of the long wait. "Sometimes you don't hear those things."
, Alexei Emelin
and Tomas Plekanec
scored the Canadiens (20-24-9), who snapped a three-game losing streak coming out of the All-Star Break.
The struggles of the Jets (24-24-6) on the road continued as they are now 9-16-4 away from MTS Centre. They finished a six-game road swing with a 2-4-0 record, scoring just six goals on the trip.
"We didn't do a lot of things well through two periods," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "We didn't win battles, we looked mentally fatigued, we looked like we were worn down."
It was the 10th time in 12 games overall the Jets have scored two or fewer goals, and their record over that span is 4-7-1.
"When I look at the energy level it looks like we've been on the road for two weeks," Noel said. "For us the biggest thing will be finding some energy for the game on Tuesday (at home against the Maple Leafs)."
Price was not tested often but made a handful of key stops to preserve his first shutout since turning the trick in consecutive starts back on Nov. 16 and 19. His two best saves came early in the third period when he denied two attempts from the doorstep by Antti Miettinen
, who is still looking for his first goal in a Jets uniform since being claimed off waivers Dec. 13.
"I just threw a limb back there and got a piece of it," Price said. "I was just swimming after that."
Otherwise, the highlights were minimal for a road weary Jets squad.
The Canadiens, on the other hand, enjoyed a rare win in front of their fans, running their home record to 10-11-7 to climb out of the Eastern Conference basement.
Pacioretty opened the scoring with his 19th of the season and seventh in 10 games at 18:02 of the first, banking in a rebound from behind the net to put Montreal ahead 1-0.
Emelin increased the lead to 2-0 at 7:20 of the second with a shorthanded goal off a nice saucer pass feed from Plekanec, who registered just his second multi-point game in his last 33 outings. The usually reserved Emelin threw his hands in the air in celebration of his second career goal.
"Sure I was happy," Emelin said through an interpreter. "I don't score a lot."
Then, to the great disappointment of the fans in the building, Plekanec completed the scoring at 11:28 of the second.