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On the right path

The Canadiens traded leads with the Maple Leafs but ultimately fell in overtime at the Bell Centre

by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL /

MONTREAL - The Canadiens did a lot of things right against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night but sometimes, doing the right thing just isn't enough.

The hotly anticipated affair turned into a tug-of-war early on, with the Canadiens and Maple Leafs each taking their turn to go up by one before the Leafs decided the game in their favor in overtime.

Jeff Petry scored his first goal of the season on the Habs' second shot of the night, on a nifty feed from Jonathan Drouin, to give the Canadiens an early lead - but the lead didn't last long. Just over five minutes later, James Van Riemsdyk netted his fourth of the year to tie it for Toronto, setting the stage for sophomore star Auston Matthews to put Toronto ahead less than a minute later.

But then, with the Canadiens on the power play late in the first frame, Alex Galchenyuk got the proverbial monkey off his back after escaping with the puck at the Maple Leafs blue line only to send a low wrister past Frederik Andersen for his first of the season.

Although some might have been concerned over Galchenyuk's lack of offensive output until then, captain Max Pacioretty knew it was just a matter of time before the young sniper got going.

"I said this morning, he had chances to bury it last game - I think he hit two posts," Pacioretty described. "Tonight was no different, he was able to bury on his opportunity and that got us back into the game."

Karl Alzner may still be the new guy but he, too, is well aware of what Galchenyuk can bring to the table.

"He's a guy that when he has the touch going, watch out. He can definitely change the tide for this team," praised Alzner of the 23-year-old, who logged 12:16 of ice time and registered two shots on net. "If that's something that helps propel him to the 30-goal seasons that we've been able to see, that would be a big bonus for this team."

Video: Alzner on Drouin's tip-in

Speaking of Alzner, midway through the second period, the 10-year veteran noticed Jonathan Drouin heading for the net in his peripheral vision and launched the puck towards the crease from the blue line, setting Drouin up for the perfect tip-in. The goal, which briefly put the Canadiens up by one, was monumental for both the goal scorer and the man who assisted him, as it marked Drouin's first goal as a Hab and was the 100th assist of Alzner's career.

"Guys are so good at blocking shots that you have to shoot off the side of the net. We worked on stuff just like that in practice the other day. Sometimes you see the play happening and you can do it and other times you make the safe play, but it worked out well," explained Alzner, who registered a shade under 20 minutes of ice time against the Leafs. "I'm shocked that he was able to get the perfect tip on it because I was coming in pretty hard, but he made a nice play."

Toronto tied the game 1:07 later when Patrick Marleau buried the puck on a scramble. With no further scoring through the end of the third, Matthews sealed the Habs' fate just 48 seconds into overtime.

Despite emerging on the losing end, the Canadiens felt good about their effort in the first of their four meetings with archrival Toronto this season. They outshot the Leafs 34-22 and generated a healthy dose of scoring chances, and didn't allow Toronto's high-powered offense to get too comfortable in their turf.

"Look at the way we played in the third, we were pushing the pucks deep, getting them on net, getting chances," said Drouin, who picked up two points and led all Canadiens forwards with 18:28 of ice time. "We were executing our game plan, not theirs. We did a pretty good job of that."

Video: Drouin on his team heading in the right direction

Alzner believes that his contingent is on the right track and, if they keep doing the right things, should start seeing results on the scoresheet and in the standings before long.

"It definitely feels better to get a point. The last couple of games have been a step forward even though we hadn't made it to overtime or gotten the two points. There's a lot of promise in the dressing room," confided the native of Burnaby, BC. "I see good things coming. If we keep putting pucks at the net, we're going to get some of those fun ones that go off things and find their way in and that's going to spark the team."

With a three-game California road trip on the docket next week, head coach Claude Julien is hoping that his troops can see those results - but only if they keep working for it.

"We're going to keep working because at the end of the day, there's a pretty good team here that probably deserves a better record than it has," he concluded. "We can't be satisfied with just thinking we're better than we are. We have to work our way out of it and down the road, it'll make us a better team."

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