|Canadiens defenseman Michael Komisarek celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime as Montreal edged the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 at the Air Canada Centre.
The Montreal Canadiens did just that on Tuesday night, as Alexei Kovalev erased a 3-2 deficit with 6:02 left in regulation before defenseman Mike Komisarek scored on a breakaway in a 3-on-3 situation 35 seconds into overtime, giving the Canadiens a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto won the first two meetings between the ancient rivals — and probably would have made it 3-for-3 if not for rookie goaltender Carey Price. The 20-year-old made 37 saves in his first career start against Toronto, including a glove stop on a blast by Leafs defenseman Bryan McCabe, who moments later turned the puck over to Komisarek for the game-winning tally.
After the game, Price was greeted by Canadiens’ owner George Gillett.
“Good job,” Gillett said to his young netminder.
With coincidental minors at the start of OT leaving lots of open ice, Komisarek read the play beautifully — he intercepted McCabe’s errant pass at the Canadiens’ blue line before skating in alone on Andrew Raycroft and firing a wrist shot through the Toronto goaltender’s pads for his second goal of the season.
“I looked over my shoulder and saw it was just me and Andrew Raycroft,” Komisarek said. “I tried not to get too fancy. I had my chance and I jumped. The rest is history.”
It was frustrating for McCabe, whose gaffe — combined with his attempt that was denied by Price — prevented the Leafs (7-7-5) from going home with two points.
''I just tried to one-touch it to Nicky (Antropov),'' McCabe said. ''Five seconds earlier, I could have been the hero. I had a great chance. But that's how it goes.''
Montreal opened the scoring 13:43 into the game by capitalizing on a 5-on-3 advantage. With two Leafs’ defensemen — McCabe and Hal Gill — in the penalty box, Andrei Markov ripped a shot past Raycroft to give Montreal a 1-0 lead. It was Markov’s sixth goal of the season, most among NHL defensemen.
Kyle Wellwood got the Leafs even 2:01 into the second period. After a tremendous rush by Jiri Tlusty, Wellwood – who entered the game without a goal this season – flipped the puck over Price to make it 1-1.
After a series of phenomenal saves by Price — who shut down the Leafs on a two-man advantage that lasted 1:14 — Wellwood beat the Canadiens’ netminder again with 1:34 to play in the second on a power-play goal. Price was sprawled on the ice as Wellwood slammed home a rebound just two seconds before a roughing penalty to Markov was set to expire to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead.
But Montreal came right back, as Andrei Kostitsyn tied the game just 43 seconds later. With the Canadiens buzzing, Kostitsyn took a perfect pass from Alexei Kovalev and one-timed it past Raycroft to make it 2-2.
Toronto took the lead again when Boyd Devereaux scored at 9:44 of the third period. The Leafs’ forward was able to redirect Ian White’s blast from the point past Price.
The Canadiens again pulled even when Kovalev beat Raycroft at 13:58. Tomas Plekanec was able to get around the Leafs’ defense before sending a pass from behind the net to Kovalev, who fired a shot into the top corner to make it 3-3.
''They beat us in our building last time so it was nice to beat them here in this building,'' said Kovalev, referring to Toronto’s 3-2 win at Montreal on Nov. 3.
Kovalev, however, deflected most of the credit to Price, who improved to 4-1-1 in six appearances.
''I like his style,'' said Kovalev, who had a three-point night. ''I like that kid. He's so calm. He's got a nice future.''
The Vancouver native, who entered the game with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage, wasn’t about to make much of the Canadiens’ 10th win of the season and his first-ever start in Toronto. Montreal will look to make it two in a row on Friday night, when it visits the Buffalo Sabres.
“'I just treated it like another game,” Price said. “I'm happy we won, but it's really just another win.”
Material from wire services was used in this report.