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Markov lifts Canadiens past Blackhawks in OT

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said Saturday morning he would like his team to learn to play more like the Chicago Blackhawks.

A few hours later, Therrien's Canadiens went out and showed they may not need the lesson.

Andrei Markov's second goal of the game came at 1:28 of overtime to give the Canadiens a 2-1 win against the Blackhawks at Bell Centre.

"I was telling my players before the game that if you look at the statistics, you would have to give the advantage to the Blackhawks," Therrien said. "But the nice thing about statistics is that they're in the past. All that's important to us is tonight's game. We can control the present, and that's what we concentrated on."

Markov provided all the offense and Carey Price had to come up big a number of times among his 19 saves. But the key to the game was the line of Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta and Travis Moen along with the defensive pair of P.K. Subban and Josh Gorges, who spent most of the night facing Chicago's top unit of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa and defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

Sharp and Toews entered the game riding four-game point streaks, and the duo had combined for 12 goals and 13 assists in their previous eight games.

The Plekanec line was effective in limiting the line's chances through 49 minutes, but couldn't do it all night; Sharp and Toews set up Hossa's tying goal at 9:22 of the third period to make it 1-1.

Still, Plekanec finished the night with 11 shots on goal and his line combined for 16, compared to 20 for the Blackhawks.

"He threw us all on his back and carried us," Price said.

Plekanec has made a habit of being tasked with shutting down the NHL's top players and coming out ahead, but he does not enjoy taking the credit. His teammates are all too happy to do it on his behalf.

"He's so consistent and so good night in and night out, you take it for granted at times," Gionta said. "That's just what he does."

The overtime goal came following a tremendous shift by Plekanec during which he was stopped by Corey Crawford on a clean breakaway and again on a chance off the side of the net.

The Canadiens maintained pressure in the Chicago zone on the following shift and pounced on a Seabrook pass to Keith behind the Blackhawks net that was cut off by Max Pacioretty. His centering pass was deflected out to the point to Markov, and the defenseman's wrist shot to the far top corner beat Crawford for his fifth goal of the season.

"It was a good challenge for us to play against a good team, and we got the two points," said the normally reserved Markov, who was beaming from ear to ear after scoring the game-winner in overtime. "When you score the goal in overtime, it's always fun."

The Canadiens (26-15-5) won for the second time in three games, but the Blackhawks (29-8-10) lost their second straight and have won just twice in their past seven games (2-1-4), their worst stretch of the season.

"It's frustrating," said Crawford, who also lost 2-1 in overtime in his only other start in his hometown, on April 5, 2011. "We expect to win, especially after coming back and tying it. We had a couple of chances after that. I think everybody in this room thinks we could have grabbed another point out of that one."

Crawford has not won in his past six starts (0-3-3), but the loss Saturday was not his fault. He made 36 saves, including one that should be a save of the year candidate late in the second period to allow the Blackhawks to enter the third period down 1-0.

With the Blackhawks on a power play, Plekanec took a shot on Crawford and as he skated through the Chicago crease on his way back to his zone, he knocked Crawford's stick out of his hands and into the corner.

The Canadiens came quickly back up ice with Brandon Prust coming in on a partial break that Crawford stopped with a pad-stack save. But Lars Eller was following up for the rebound and appeared to have an empty net, except Crawford made a desperate kick with his left leg and got the blade of his skate on the puck, deflecting it wide with a little more than a minute remaining in the period.

"I knew I didn't have [my stick], so I kind of just sprawled out when [Prust] came in," Crawford said. "The rebound went to the other guy and I just kicked my leg out. Luckily, I hit it."

The Blackhawks came out flying and were controlling the play right off the opening faceoff until penalties to defensemen Michel Kostka and Niklas Hjalmarsson, both for tripping Daniel Briere, in a span of 1:58 midway through the first switched the momentum in the Canadiens' favor.

Montreal was unable to capitalize, however, entering the first intermission in a scoreless tie despite outshooting Chicago 11-6.

The Canadiens continued to carry the play in the second, holding a 17-10 advantage in shots when Markov scored on Montreal's 18th shot through a George Parros screen at 12:54.

Crawford and Price traded saves over the next few minutes until Subban took a delay of game penalty at 17:17 of the second, ultimately leading to Crawford's highlight-reel stop on Eller that maintained Chicago's deficit at one goal heading to the third.

The Blackhawks thought they'd tied the game at 2:04 of the third period when Kris Versteeg tipped a point shot past Price, but referee Wes McCauley immediately waved off the goal due to incidental contact with the goaltender by Michal Handzus.

After Hossa tied it at 9:22, the Blackhawks had two tremendous chances to win the game late in regulation. Bryan Bickell hit the post with 1:40 to play, and moments later Toews drove the net hard against Price and a loose puck came to Sharp on the lip of the crease, but he missed the open side of the net.

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