Jaroslav Spacek had already assisted on a goal when he was involved in the pivotal play for the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
Unfortunately for Spacek, it involved him being driven heavily into the boards near the benches by Carolina Hurricanes forward Erik Cole with 4:34 left in the second period.
Cole received a five-minute boarding major on the play -- and the Canadiens scored the tying and winning goals on the ensuing power play, with an undeterred Spacek coming back to record his second assist of the night on Alexandre Picard's tally with a 59.4 seconds remaining in the period that provided the Canadiens with a 3-2 victory at the RBC Center.
"It just shows the team we have," said Scott Gomez, who scored Montreal's first goal and also assisted on Picard's winner. "We've got a lot of veteran guys in here, and the young guys are playing great. But when you're going bad, sometimes (giving up) that first goal is just, 'Oh, here we go again.' But we've gone through it all. We know how to win. We've just got to put it together."
Despite leading the Northeast Division, the Canadiens had lost five of six and four straight on the road. The Hurricanes took a pair of one-goal leads in the second as Chad LaRose and Cole beat Carey Price, but the long power play late in the period helped them dig out of that second hole.
"Our special teams have always been pretty important for us," said Price, who made 10 of his 22 saves in the third period. "It won us the game."
Cole had given Carolina a 2-1 lead just nine seconds before his penalty, pushing a rebound past Price for his 14th career goal against Montreal. Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice was exasperated in describing how he thought Cole got a raw deal on the boarding major.
"I understand why there's an issue here, but there's no way Spacek doesn't know that hit's coming because Cole's chasing him up the ice," Maurice said. "They aren't going in opposite directions. They're going in the same direction. So he's finishing his hit.
"There's no way Erik Cole knows he's going to turn his face to the glass at the very last second," he added. "There's no invitation, 'Dear sir, I'm going to hit you. Would you mind keeping your shoulders square to me so that I don't get a 5-minute penalty?'"
Andrei Kostitsyn drew the Canadiens even with 3:03 left in the second, tapping in a feed from Tomas Plekanec, and Picard put them in front for the first time by beating Cam Ward on a shot from between the circles that found its way in through traffic in front.
It was Carolina taking advantage of a Montreal power play to open the scoring 1:02 into the second as LaRose scored the seventh shorthanded goal of his career. Gomez answered at 4:47, taking a pass from Roman Hamrlik and splitting a pair of defenders before beating Ward.
"We had good control of the hockey game -- although they scored the two goals, I thought we played well, and we did things that we wanted to do," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said.
Panthers 4, Sabres 3 | HIGHLIGHTS
Florida has gotten off to some fast starts of late. This time, they finished in style as well. Jason Garrison scored with 5:07 remaining and the Panthers recovered after blowing a three-goal lead to edge the Sabres at HSBC Arena.
Chris Higgins sandwiched a pair of first-period goals around a power-play score by Stephen Weiss as Florida led 3-0 after 20 minutes. Buffalo took over in the second, as Jordan Leopold sandwiched two goals of his own around a power-play tally by Jason Pominville to get the Sabres even after 40 minutes.
"We just had to re-focus and play with a little bit more composure," said Higgins, who hadn't scored since Nov. 12. "We handled the puck like a hot potato in the second period, but did a much better job of handling their pressure in the third."
The Panthers scored four first-period goals in a 6-2 win the last time these teams met, but two days earlier they blew a three-goal first-period lead in a 4-3 loss to the Hurricanes. Although it appeared they could be headed down a similar road Thursday, captain Bryan McCabe chose to view the scoreboard as a clean slate.
"On the road being 0-0 going into the third period, it's not a bad spot to be," he said. "That's what we talked about. They dominated us in the second, but in the third we got the forecheck going again."
Garrison's second goal of the season came after Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers coughed up the puck after appearing to be slashed on the ankle by Weiss. He fell and lost control of the puck in the Florida zone and Garrison picked it up, cruised down the right side and put a shot past Ryan Miller, who was going after his 200th NHL win.
"I had him beat and he took me down with a trip," Myers said of Weiss. "If he doesn't take me down, it's a scoring chance for us. I'm pretty upset about that."
Potentially even more upsetting to the Sabres in the long term, leading scorer Derek Roy left seven minutes in with an apparent left leg injury suffered when Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov checked him into the boards. Roy was seen leaving the building on crutches and will be re-evaluated Friday, but coach Lindy Ruff said the injury "looks serious."
Patrick Kaleta later received a double roughing minor and misconduct for going after Kulikov. A hooking penalty on Paul Gaustad led to a 5-on-3 advantage for Florida and Weiss converted in helping the Panthers build their 3-0 lead.
Senators 2, Predators 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
Ottawa hasn't always gotten the goaltending it's needed to win games this season, but there was no doubting who the Senators' best player was at Bridgestone Arena. Brian Elliott turned aside 25 shots and made sure goals by Alex Kovalev and Nick Foligno were enough for a key victory at Nashville.
"You need to have the goaltender be your backbone," Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said. "He doesn't always have to win you games, but he needs to be solid and give you confidence. When your goaltender does that it allows you to play your game a lot more relaxed and a lot more comfortable.
"Brian showed up big for us. We need him to do that. He has had some criticism thrown at him the last little while. It was nice to see him respond the way he did."
Elliott's numbers were fairly pedestrian entering the game: a 10-10-3 record with a 3.07 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. But he was nearly flawless against the Predators, who managed only a Marcel Goc goal off a tip-in and have now lost their last three games.
"Brian should be praised when he plays well like he did in this game," Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips said. "When he was called upon he made some huge saves for us."
Elliott stopped 10 shots in the first period and the Senators gave him a lead to protect when Kovalev scored his eighth of the season at 9:35, beating Predators goalie Pekka Rinne from in front of the crease.
"You always feel good when guys are playing and keeping everything to the outside," Elliott said. "I was able to see a lot of pucks which was good. There wasn't a lot of traffic in front, but when there was we cleared the rebounds.
"We did the little things that we have kind of lacked in parts of other games. Our guys were doing anything they could to protect the lead. We were all working hard out there and we put it together as a group."
Foligno added what held up as the game-winner when he connected on an Ottawa power play 4:58 into the second. Milan Michalek's shot bounced off Rinne's skate and Foligno was able to control the rebound and put the puck into the right side of the net with the goalie out of position.
Goc tipped in Cody Franson's shot at 7:16 but Elliott stopped eight shots in that second period and seven more in the third to keep the Senators in front.
"We didn't sit back in the third period," Clouston said. "We managed the puck well. We didn't give Nashville a whole lot. We kept most things on the perimeter. We clogged up the neutral zone. I think we frustrated them."
The Predators have scored one goal in losing each of their last three games.
"Against Chicago Wednesday night everything on offense was one-and-done," coach Barry Trotz said. "We had a little more zone time against Ottawa. We had a lot more energy and commitment and a little more detail but we still lost."
Islanders 5, Devils 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
Changing coaches didn't seem to motivate New Jersey, but its opponent certainly came out flying in the first period. New York got a pair of goals from Josh Bailey and another from John Tavares to open up a three-goal lead after 20 minutes. Dwayne Roloson took over from there, stopping 34 shots as the Islanders moved past the Devils and out of last place in the League standings.
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Bruins 4, Thrashers 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
Boston tough guy Shawn Thornton got into a fight with his Atlanta counterpart, Eric Boulton, off the opening draw, then nearly matched the feat Boulton accomplished last Saturday when he recorded his first career hat trick against New Jersey. Thornton went on to score a pair of goals and hit the post on an empty net in the final minute, but it didn't matter as Tim Thomas stopped 26 shots and the Bruins snapped a long scoreless drought in defeating the Thrashers.
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