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Canadiens recover to beat Blue Jackets

by Arpon Basu /

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens came into this season eager to prove that the success they had in the 2012-13 regular season was no fluke.

Through seven games, they appear to be doing just that.

Tomas Plekanec scored the winning goal with 1:07 to play in the third period on a quick shot from the high slot as the Canadiens blew a 3-0 lead Thursday night but bounced back to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3 to run their winning streak to four games.

Plekanec added an empty-net goal with 15.6 seconds left while the Canadiens were shorthanded to ice the victory. The win gave the Canadiens a 5-2-0 record, matching their record after the same number of games last season.

"Teams that win give their best every night," Canadiens goaltender Carey Price said. "Even if we don't have our best performance, at least we're going to give our best effort."

Andrei Markov had a goal and an assist and his defense partner, P.K. Subban, had two assists to run his point streak to six games. Subban has 10 points over those six games, putting him in a six-way tie for second on the NHL scoring list with an impressive group of All-Star forwards: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Henrik Sedin.

But Subban was less concerned with his own numbers than he was with his team's inability to put a game away with a 3-0 lead.

"We're finding ways to win. We can't rely on our maturity and that stuff late in the game to pull it off. We've got to make sure that when we've got teams down and out, we've got to finish them off."

It was a night of firsts for rookies from each team. Canadiens rookie Michael Bournival scored his first career NHL goal and Blue Jackets rookie Boone Jenner one-upped him by scoring the first two goals of his career, including the tying goal early in the third period to make it 3-3.

"It was pretty special," Jenner said of his first goal. "I had some chances and I wanted to keep playing the way I need to. Once it went in, it was a good feeling. And we got some momentum off of it, so it was good."

While both of Jenner's goals were on the power play, Ryan Johansen scored one at even strength for Columbus (2-4-0) to snap a two-game streak without a 5-on-5 goal for the Blue Jackets, who have lost three straight games in regulation.

Both teams were missing a key forward, with the Canadiens' Max Pacioretty and the Blue Jackets' Marian Gaborik not dressed for the game. Pacioretty has a strained left hamstring he sustained Tuesday in Winnipeg that will keep him out for three weeks, and Gaborik was a last-minute scratch with an illness.

That didn't stop both teams from generating long stretches of offensive pressure, however, as both goaltenders were busy and played well despite the high number of goals.

Price had allowed one goal in his previous two starts and finished the night with 30 saves. He has stopped 105 of the last 109 shots he has faced.

"He's playing with a lot of confidence," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said, "and the way he's playing is giving our team confidence."

Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky allowed more than two goals for the first time since opening night. He had 31 saves.

The Canadiens jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in a wide-open first period in which the two teams combined for 25 shots on goal, with 14 coming from Montreal.

With Johansen in the box, Blue Jackets defensemen Nikita Nikitin and David Savard completely forgot about Rene Bourque, who was standing by himself on their blue line. Subban found him with a pass from the Canadiens' zone to send Bourque in alone for a breakaway power-play goal on Bobrovsky at 4:38.

Bournival made it 2-0 on another superb play by Subban, who deked around a Blue Jackets forward at the offensive blue line before feeding it to Markov, who found Bournival with a pass through the slot for a one-timer that beat Bobrovsky between the legs at 12:01 to make it 2-0.

"I got chills. I can't describe it. I was just so happy, I screamed," Bournival said. "It was a very nice pass from Markov. It was perfect. I had no choice but to put it in. I was all by myself and he found me. It was a nice play."

Markov increased Montreal's lead to 3-0 on a shorthanded goal off a Jack Johnson turnover in the Columbus end, his shot from the blue line bouncing once before fooling Bobrovsky at 6:52 of the second.

The Columbus comeback began less than a minute later.

Jenner scored his first of the game at 7:41 of the second on the same power play, pouncing on a rebound of a Johansen shot and sliding the puck Price to make it 3-1.

Johansen cut the lead to 3-2 at 17:11 when he chipped the puck past Lars Eller at the Columbus blue line to create a 2-on-1 opportunity. Johansen opted to keep it, then beat Price with a perfect shot to the far corner for his first goal of the season.

Therrien said after the game that the goal was caused by Subban's decision to pinch deep in the Columbus zone -- a decision that wasn't necessary with a 3-1 lead -- which in turn forced Eller to cover for him. That goal got Columbus back in the game. Therrien indicated he intends to discuss Subban's decision with the reigning Norris Trophy winner.

"That's part of teaching and understanding the game," Therrien said. "We can't forget that P.K. is a young defenseman, and when we always say he still has things to improve on, that's a part of it; playing according to the score, according to the time left on the clock. So that's part of our responsibility.

"Making mistakes is OK, but you have to learn from your mistakes."

Jenner tied it 3-3 at 4:35 of the third with another power-play goal on another rebound, this time putting a backhander upstairs over Price's glove with captain Brian Gionta in the box for a retaliatory high-sticking penalty.

But that set the stage for Plekanec's game-winner, a no-look shot from just inside the blue line that went against the grain and caught Bobrovsky moving the wrong way as the puck tucked just inside the far post.

It's a shot Plekanec has tried several times before, and he has a pretty simple explanation as to how he pulls it off.

"You don't look at the goalie, you look at your linemate like you're going to pass it to him," Plekanec said. "Then you whack it in the net."

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