A never-say-die attitude moved the Montreal Canadiens
into seventh place in the Eastern Conference on Sunday night.
Despite being less than two minutes away from leaving without any points, Brian Gionta
and Andrei Markov
scored in the final 1:49 of regulation and Tomas Plekanec
notched the game-winner in the shootout as the Habs escaped the Honda Center with an improbable 4-3 victory against the Anaheim Ducks
"It was huge for us … we fought hard," Plekanec said. "I think we deserved it with that third period. We played well and we pushed them hard. That's a huge win for us. Hopefully we can keep it going. We're in a playoff race."
, who made 40 saves, appeared to secure the victory in the third round of the shootout when he initially stopped Gionta's wrist shot. But the momentum carried Hiller into the net, where the puck dropped over the goal line as Hiller went to get up. Plekanec won it for the Habs in the following round when he beat Hiller with a wrist shot.
"I don't know what the rule is or if there even is one, but there needs to be one," Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer said. "It was play where I thought Hillsie had it. Then, once he goes to relax and thinks the play is over, it drops out. It's unfortunate, but obviously we shouldn't be in that position, either."
"The shootout goal was not my decision," Markov said. "The referee decided to score the goal, and we're happy right now with the two points."
All of Anaheim's goals came in the first period against Carey Price
, who was removed by coach Jacques Martin after allowing three tallies on 11 shots. Corey Perry
opened the scoring at 8:54 before Lubomir Visnovsky
made it 2-0 exactly four minutes later. Niedermayer tripled the Ducks' lead in the final minute of the period when he beat Price with a backhander.
Price was relieved by Jaroslav Halak, who stopped all 21 shots he faced, including six in overtime.
Plekanec got the Canadiens on the comeback trail when he beat Hiller for his 19th goal of the season at 7:48 of the second period thanks to a long feed from Josh Gorges
. Montreal continued to pressure the Ducks in the third and cut it to 3-2 with 1:50 remaining on Gionta's 20th goal of the season. With Halak off for an extra attacker, Markov tied the game with just 10.7 seconds left.
"We made some mistakes with the puck late in the hockey game, and it cost us," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "We could have played a better third period. Nobody feels good about what just happened."
The failure to secure the second point in the standings has Anaheim (30-27-8) six points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Ducks, who were playing the first of a seven-game homestand, return to the ice on Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"We can't look at the big picture … that doesn't really help us," Niedermayer said. "We just have to be ready to go for our next game. We can be better than we were tonight, and that's got to be our focus."
Material from wire services and team and broadcast media was used in this report.