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Saad scores late to send Blackhawks past Canadiens

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks keep finding ways to win games in the third period, and Friday they earned a fifth straight victory because of that.

This time, left wing Brandon Saad scored with 27 seconds left to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 at United Center.

Seconds after Blackhawks goalie Antti Raanta made one of his 38 saves to nix a good scoring chance by Dale Weise, Chicago pushed the puck up the ice off the rebound. Right wing Patrick Kane attempted a shot in the high slot that was knocked down, but Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov couldn't control the puck. He watched it slide to Saad, who beat goalie Carey Price from the low slot.

Just like that, Chicago (17-8-1) was on the verge of its eighth win in nine games.

"You don't really want it to go that way, where you have to come up with big third periods, but we're finding ways to win games," Blackhawks forward Ben Smith said. "You have to be happy about that. It's definitely something to work on there in the second [periods], finding ways to stay consistent in our game. It's always nice to come back in the third though."

Montreal (17-9-2) lost for the second straight game and is 1-4-1 in the past six. The Canadiens fell behind 2-0 before taking a 3-2 lead into the third period. Montreal lost for the first time this season when leading after two periods (10-1-0).

"You've got to try to find ways to win those close hockey games against a really good team in a tough building to win," said forward Brendan Gallagher, who scored Montreal's first goal and assisted on the second. "We did a good job giving ourselves a chance. We got down 2-0 even though we were doing some good things at the time. We stuck with it and found a way to battle back. We had the lead, and then they came out in the third period and found a way to win the game."

Jonathan Toews, Michal Rozsival and Smith also scored for the Blackhawks (17-8-1), who have moved past the St. Louis Blues for second place in the Central Division. Chicago will play Saturday at the Nashville Predators, who lead the division by one point (36-35).

After scoring three goals in the third period Wednesday to defeat St. Louis, Chicago scored twice on 12 shots Friday.

They Blackhawks took advantage of their fifth power play to start the third period. Toews tied it at 4:18 on a man-advantage that resulted from a hooking minor called on Subban. Toews tapped the puck over the goal line for his 11th after a shot by Brad Richards eluded Price and headed toward the net.

"That's what we're trying to do is be able to play a full 60 minutes," Saad said. "That's how we're going to get wins. Coming in [the locker room], regrouping and getting ready for the third, we got some momentum off that power play and took it from there."

Chicago took a 2-1 first-period lead on goals by Rozsival and Smith, with Rozsival scoring his first of the season 2:13 into the game. Gallagher countered Smith's goal at 18:16 with one 26 seconds later, on a wrist shot from the slot off a feed from Galchenyuk.

It was the start of a stretch when Montreal controlled the puck better than Chicago. The Canadiens kept applying pressure until Gonchar tied it 2-2 at 7:58 of the second, also his first goal of the season. The Canadiens outworked the Blackhawks to hold the puck in the offensive zone and were rewarded after Gallagher found Gonchar with a feed while gliding between the circles.

Gonchar's shot from the right circle beat Raanta over the pad to the far side for his first goal with Montreal, and first since Jan. 25 of last season, when the defenseman was with the Dallas Stars.

Subban made it 3-2 at 17:22 on a power play. His slap shot appeared to skip off Smith's skate on its way into the net past Raanta's glove for the first power-play goal Chicago allowed since Nov. 20 at the Calgary Flames, a span of 23 straight penalty kills.

That set the stage for the third period, when the Blackhawks have outscored opponents 31-12 and outshot them 335-234.

"Going into the third with a lead against this team in this building obviously says a lot, but there's a reason why they're one of the best in the League every year," said Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty, who finished with six shots. "It felt good to compete with them, but at the end of the day you want to get two points and we just came up a bit short and [have] to find a way to clean up."

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