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For one day, all is right for Canadiens

Plekanec, Scrivens lead the way in matinee victory against McDavid and Oilers

by Dave Stubbs @dave_stubbs / Columnist/Historian

Subban blasts home insurance goal

EDM@MTL: Subban joins play, pads lead with slap shot

2/6/16: A streaking P.K. Subban takes a pass from Tomas Plekanec and unleashes a slap shot off the post and in to put the Canadiens ahead 4-0

  • 00:52 •

MONTREAL - Montreal Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec kept referring to "tonight's" game, no matter that Saturday's 5-1 victory against the Edmonton Oilers was a Bell Centre matinee.

At the end of the day, as afternoon pressed toward evening, the Canadiens had scored a badly needed, take-a-deep-breath win. And Plekanec was enjoying a four-point effort, the seventh of his career, with a goal and three assists.

"No complaints tonight, obviously," Plekanec said after his team ended a four-game losing streak. "We played well and we played with confidence. You could tell we were moving the puck really well and scored some goals."

Indeed, this was the first time since the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, a 5-1 win against the Boston Bruins at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 1, that the Canadiens had scored more than three times in a game.

It was also their first regulation win in their past 10 games, having skidded along with a 1-8-1 record in that span; the only victory came in a shootout against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 23.

Video: EDM@MTL: Gallagher deflects Canadiens' PP goal in 1st

"We know where we're at," Plekanec said with the Canadiens facing a tough, some say impossible, climb to a playoff berth with 29 games left on their schedule. "We're going to keep fighting. Hopefully, this is the start of a solid winning streak we need to put on and keep it going.

"When you have a good first period, you feel good. You play with confidence instead of chasing the game and trying to get something going. Tonight we got out [front] 2-0 and scored on our first power play."

It was forward Brendan Gallagher who broke the ice with a man-advantage tip of a Plekanec shot 7:27 into the first period, Lars Eller then rifled a shot past Oilers goalie Cam Talbot almost nine minutes later, after he was left to cruise untouched into the slot.

The Canadiens never looked back; they were up 4-0 after 40 minutes before Edmonton's Benoit Pouliot broke former Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens' shutout bid early in the third period.

Video: EDM@MTL: Scrivens extends right pad to stop Draisaitl

Scrivens was terrific, making 23 saves to win his first game in his fifth start as a Canadien. The 29-year-old turned aside a dozen shots in the first period, shutting the door to send his team to a rare first-intermission lead.

Scrivens played 78 games for Edmonton from 2013-15 before being farmed out and then traded to the Canadiens for forward Zack Kassian on Dec. 28. If he took any special satisfaction from beating his former club, he wasn't letting on.

"The biggest thing is we got a win," Scrivens said. "Obviously we're kind of in a struggle a bit right now. Hopefully that's a good game for us [that] we can build off. That's all that really matters to me."

On Friday, Scrivens tried to downplay the fact he was facing the team that shuffled him to the minors -- "buried" was his word after the game Saturday -- saying it was pretty much just another match.

"My biggest focus was just trying to give the team a chance to win," he said after the victory. "It's not like the next start I get I go, 'OK, it's not against someone I know or a team I used to play for, so I don't want to try as hard now.'

"You try to approach every game as its own entity, and be ready, give the team a chance."

Scrivens then grinned.

"I try not to lie to you guys that much," he added, looking into the media gathering. "There's times and places when I've lied to you guys, but that wasn't one of them."

Having played for the Oilers, Scrivens said, didn't give him any special insight into their shooters. Nor was he leaning on any so-called book of insider knowledge.

"Everybody can shoot everywhere at any time," the goalie said. "As soon as you start guessing or predicting where they're going to shoot, you're in a lot of trouble. Try to play each shot honestly. It's no different than any shooter.

"A book is your phone numbers to invite people to your wedding, I guess."

To the negative majority, swirling snow outside the Bell Centre on Saturday afternoon suggested that nuclear winter indeed had arrived, the end of the world as Canadiens fans knew it.

And then Gallagher's tip put the home team up 1-0; it became 2-0 on Eller's sweet shot.

This was the front end of the Canadiens' 25th annual Super Bowl weekend, the first of two matinee games heavily populated by kids whose interests are at least equally rooted in hot dogs, the scoreboard, arena noise and the mascot Youppi! as they are the product on the ice.

It was the grown-ups who, after 20 minutes of play, were awaiting the Canadiens' inevitable broken axle and at least one wheel snapping off, rolling with a wobble into a ditch.

Instead, Montreal added two more in the second period, off the sticks of Plekanec, then P.K. Subban. Defenseman Tom Gilbert finished off the scoring midway through the third after Pouliot had made it 4-1.

There wasn't necessarily an early-career Sidney Crosby buzz in the arena on this afternoon, but the first game on Montreal ice for Oilers phenom Connor McDavid quickened the pulse of fans a little.

Video: EDM@MTL: McDavid dangles defense, shoots through legs

In the end, the Canadiens' defense tandem of Subban and Andrei Markov rendered McDavid almost invisible, save for one breathtaking, between-the-legs try late in the game. The fabulous rookie finished the game at minus-1 with no shots on goal, one attempt blocked and three others having missed the net.

"He's a special kid," Plekanec said of McDavid. "He's a special player, he's going to be for years. But we played the right way as a team. We didn't give him much. We've got to play like that every night."

Or day, as the case may be.

The Canadiens will try to make it two in a row, something they haven't done since Nov. 25-27, when they host the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

"The last couple of months, we pulled out a good game, we got a win but weren't able to get another one. We got a slap in the face the next game," Plekanec said.

"We've got to get it going again [Sunday], play the same way, and hope to get another win."

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