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Canadiens blow lead, rebound to top Red Wings

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens took another step toward securing home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs while dealing a minor blow to the Detroit Red Wings' chances of getting into the postseason.

Brian Gionta's second goal of the game snapped a 3-3 tie at 13:13 of the third period to propel the Canadiens to a 5-3 win Saturday against the Red Wings.

The win for Montreal (45-27-7) coupled with the Tampa Bay Lightning's 5-2 loss to the Dallas Stars gave the Canadiens a four-point lead on the Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division, with the Lightning holding a game in hand.

The Canadiens play at the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday and finish the regular season with two home games against the New York Islanders on Thursday and the New York Rangers next Saturday. The Lightning have three games at home next week against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets before finishing the season at the Washington Capitals next Sunday.

"It's going to be nice," Gionta said of the season's final week. "We're shooting for that home ice and we want to win out there and climb as high as we can get."

Max Pacioretty scored his 39th goal, eighth in six games, and Jarred Tinordi and Lars Eller each had two assists for the Canadiens, who have won 10 of their past 12 games.

Pacioretty's line with Thomas Vanek and David Desharnais has been the offensive engine for the Canadiens, combining for 18 goals and 20 assists in 10 games, and earning all the accolades that come with that kind of production. But the Canadiens got goals from each of their other three lines in the victory, something Gionta feels is important heading into the playoffs.

"We need that depth in scoring," he said. "That's going to help us down the stretch run. We can't just rely on one line. I think we are a much deeper team than that."

Something else that should help the Canadiens heading into the playoffs is their play at 5-on-5. While their power play has sputtered the past five games, going 0-for-17, the Canadiens have outscored their opponents 22-11 at even strength.

"Our emphasis was to get better there," Gionta said. "There's parts of the game that kind of go up and down, whether it's power play or killing penalties, but 5-on-5 has got to be consistent, and we're trying to get back on track here towards the end of the season."

Luke Glendening scored his first career goal for the Red Wings (37-27-14), who saw their four-game win streak come to an end. Detroit has lost in regulation three times in its past 11 games; two of those losses have been to the Canadiens.

"We have to be better than we were tonight," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "I think we've been on a good run here where we played hard. I didn't think there was a problem with our energy or our commitment to working hard tonight. You said details, and we didn't execute well enough with the puck tonight. Sometimes they flipped it out, got it and shot it in our net."

Detroit's loss coupled with the New Jersey Devils' 3-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes means there are two teams sitting outside of an Eastern Conference playoff spot within four points of the Red Wings, who hold the Eastern Conference's top wild-card spot. The Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the Winnipeg Jets, leaving them four points behind Detroit as well.

Last season, the Red Wings won their final four regular-season games to earn their 22nd straight trip to the postseason before upsetting the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. With four games left this season, Detroit shouldn't need to run the table, but a 23rd straight playoff spot still isn't guaranteed.

"If you ask me if I like it, it's no. I don't like this one," said Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk, who scored his first goal since Dec. 30 in his second game back from a knee injury. "But it's life, and we need to go through it. For us the last four games, it's the second season in a row they're like playoff games. It's better for us that the playoffs start early. We'll be ready when the real playoffs start."

Datsyuk's knee injury has bothered him since Jan. 1, when he and the Red Wings lost the 2014 Bridgeston NHL Winter Classic 3-2 in a shootout to the Maple Leafs. He missed the next 14 games, then played the final two games prior to the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where he captained Russia. Datsyuk played the first two games back from the Olympics before missing the next 16.

With captain Henrik Zetterberg still out with a back injury, Babcock was pleased with the progress he saw in Datsyuk's game.

"I thought Pavel got better in the second half [of the game]," he said. "I didn't think he was very good early, but I thought he was better in the second half."

Carey Price made 34 saves. He has a save percentage of .938 over his past five starts, going 4-1-0 in that span. Jonas Gustavsson made 21 saves for Detroit.

With the Canadiens ahead 3-0 after two periods, the Red Wings finally found a way to beat Price in the third.

Datsyuk scored a power-play goal on Detroit's 30th shot of the game at 5:11, corralling a rebound off the end boards off Niklas Kronwall's point shot and putting in his 16th goal.

After failing to score on its first 29 shots, Detroit scored on two straight when Glendening scored at 5:47 off a feed from Justin Abdelkader to pull the Red Wings within a goal.

Kronwall completed the comeback with a power-play goal at 10:44, rifling a shot from the point off the post and in past screened Price to make it 3-3.

But Gionta put Montreal back ahead at 13:13 when his centering pass for Rene Bourque bounced in off Red Wings defenseman Matt Lashoff's skate for his 17 th goal, second of the game.

Montreal went up 5-3 at 15:40 when Tomas Plekanec banked a shot off Galchenyuk's leg. It was Galchenyuk's 13th goal.

"The guys showed a lot of determination and we showed we're not a team that just gives up," Gustavsson said. "We came back strong, and that's why it feels even worse that we couldn't get the point when we had such a strong comeback."

Michael Bournival opened the scoring for the Canadiens at 14:16 of the first period, a play that began when he made a nice pass in the neutral zone to Ryan White and cut to the net. White drove hard on goal while fighting off a Detroit defender and got a weak shot on Gustavsson. The Detroit goalie kicked the puck in front to Bournival, who scored his seventh goal off the rebound.

Montreal made it 2-0 on a tremendous goal by Pacioretty when the puck got chipped past Kronwall at the Canadiens blue line. Pacioretty beat Kronwall to it, fended off Lashoff to protect the puck, and made a quick move to the forehand to beat Gustavsson at 8:52 of the second.

"Max is showing his talent and his speed," Price said, "and he's tough to contain when he's using those assets."

Pacioretty scored on the Canadiens' first shot of the period compared to nine by the Red Wings, and they would score again two shots later.

Tinordi put his point shot intentionally wide and it bounced off the end boards right to Eller, who tipped it through his legs in front of the net to set up Gionta's first goal at 13:35.

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