DALLAS -- In a back-and-forth battle with five goals in the third period, the Montreal Canadiens prevailed 6-4 against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
"That's what we needed," Canadiens wing Max Pacioretty said. "[We've] been struggling scoring goals, been struggling to put 60 minutes together. We came out slow, found a way to bounce back after a bad start. Carey [Price] bailed us out early in the game and I think we took it from there."
P.K. Subban (goal, three assists) and Pacioretty (two goals, two assists) contributed four points apiece for Montreal. David Desharnais had a goal and an assist; Price made 28 saves.
Tyler Seguin had a goal and an assist for Dallas, with rookie defenseman Kevin Connauton delivering two assists. Kari Lehtonen made 22 saves.
'To be honest, I don't think we deserved to win that game," Seguin said. "I don't think we earned it. I thought they were faster than us tonight. They competed harder than us tonight. I think we got a little complacent after having a soft few games in a row."
Montreal led 3-2 after two periods and doubled its lead when Brendan Gallagher scored a power-play goal 3:30 into the third period. Dallas tied it with two goals in less than a minute, one from Seguin at 7:42 on the power play and another from Brenden Dillon at 8:29.
The Canadiens took the lead back at 10:39 when Lars Eller beat Lehtonen top shelf from the edge of the right circle.
"Really, our strength in this run has been how we've defended," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "To give up that opportunity [on the Eller goal], it really was only a 2-on-4, and play it the way we did, really hurt us."
Pacioretty scored into an empty net with 1:04 remaining.
"He's been great. Lately [Pacioretty] is playing solid," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "He's got confidence. He skates really well. He's a true leader for us right now for sure."
Dallas scored first on captain Jamie Benn's one-timer from the right circle 6:12 into the game. Seguin's pass from the left corner set up Benn, and he quickly finished for his 14th of the season, beating Price through the five-hole.
Montreal tied it when Pacioretty scored his 18th at 11:00, a goal coming after an outlet pass by Subban from the Canadiens zone. Pacioretty received the pass near center ice and rushed up the left side before sending a wrister from the left circle under Lehtonen's glove.
The Canadiens took their first lead 1:35 into the second period when Desharnais beat Lehtonen with a wrister from the slot. Subban delivered another assist, sending a backhand into the slot from the left circle, and Desharnais sent a wrister over Lehtonen’s blocker for his fifth of the season.
"We put [Lehtonen] under a lot of stress, especially late when we were trying to get back in the game," Ruff said. "There are probably a couple that he'd like back, even the winning goal. He still gave us a chance when the game was on the line to get back in it. We weren't good enough as a team; this wasn't about one guy or the goaltending."
Subban singled out one line in particular he felt helped set the tone for the Canadiens.
"I thought that line of Pacioretty, Desharnais and Gallagher played outstanding today," Subban said. "They did some good things. They moved the puck. They moved themselves. They got to open ice and they found each other out there."
Dallas rookie wing Valeri Nichushkin was awarded a penalty shot at 5:23 of the second when he was tripped from behind by Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges. Nichushkin scored his eighth with a low wrister under Price’s glove that ricocheted off the right post then went over the line.
That lead lasted for just over a minute, until Subban put the visitors ahead for the first time at 6:30 of the second with his seventh during a 4-on-4. After Pacioretty’s slapper from the left point was turned away by Lehtonen, Subban gained possession in the left corner. He skated through the left circle and slot before beating Lehtonen through the five-hole with a wrister from the right circle.
Gorges made a goal-saving play late in the second when he pushed the puck out of the middle of the crease. Dallas rookie Colton Sceviour, who was recalled from Texas of the American Hockey League earlier in the day, sent the puck into the crease, and after deflecting off Price, it was free in the middle before Gorges’ play allowed Price to smother the puck and stop play.
Montreal did not have center Ryan White for the third period. He was involved in a fight with Dallas defenseman Cameron Gaunce in the second period and did not return.
"It's an upper-body injury. We'll find out more when we get back to Montreal," Therrien said.
Ruff said the Stars missed the veteran presence of Shawn Horcoff and Ray Whitney, who each missed the game due to illness, on the fourth line.
"[Whitney] is down some serious weight. He hadn't practiced in two days," Ruff said. “He wouldn't have been good to play. Horcoff's suffering the same thing. We thought we were out of it."