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Happiness is a 6-5 comeback shootout victory. Canadiens goalie Cristobal Huet leaps into the arms of defenceman Mike Komisarek after the win.
Christinne Muschi, Reuters
Incredible. Impossible. Unbelievable. Find your own adjective, folks.
The Canadiens scored five straight goals tonight to rally from a 5-0 deficit, then got a goal from Saku Koivu in the shootout and Montreal goalie Cristobal Huet stopped all three New York shooters, giving Montreal a 6-5 victory over the visiting Rangers.
Michael Ryder and Alex Kovalev scored two goals apiece, with Mark Streit adding another before Koivu scored the only goal in the shootout, Huet stopping New York’s Brendan Shanahan, Chris Drury and Jaromir Jagr to seal the remarkable victory. It was the first time in the Canadiens’ 99-year history that the club has rallied from a 5-0 deficit to win a regular-season game, and the first time in their history that the Rangers had blown a five-goal lead to lose.
The win kept the Canadiens in a tie with Ottawa atop the NHL Eastern Conference with 75 points, although the Senators are listed first because they have more wins and a game in hand. Ottawa beat the hapless Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in a shootout tonight.
If the Canadiens owned Philadelphia this season, having swept the Flyers 4-0 in their series, the Rangers came into tonight’s game having beaten Montreal three times this year and seeking their first series sweep of the Habs since 2001-02.
The Rangers exploded for two first-period goals within a breath of each other. Brandon Dubinsky opened the scoring at 8:50 with a hard snap shot from the edge of the faceoff circle past the right pad of Carey Price, and off the draw, the Rangers rushed again, Sean Avery sneaking in behind a disorganized Canadiens defence to bang one past Price for the 2-0 lead at 9:04.
The bleeding didn’t soon stop. Shanahan made it 3-0 at 13:56, on the power play from close range, Kovalev having been sent off 15 seconds earlier for high-sticking.
That goal marked the end of an 11-shot night’s work for Price, who yielded the crease to Huet.
Montreal showed promise early in the second, but a four-minute high-sticking penalty to Christopher Higgins at 2:44 quickly deepened the hole, Shanahan scoring his second of the night at 4:35.
And then it was 5-0, Drury whipping home the Rangers’ fifth at 5:03 from in close during the second of Higgins’s minors. That was New York’s 10th unanswered goal on Montreal ice since 28 minutes into the teams’ most recent Bell Centre game on Feb. 3.
Ryder finally gave the home fans something to cheer about, taking a nice pass from Streit to rifle home his 10th of the season and second in as many games, beating Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist at 8:28.
Ryder, again, brought the crowd to its feet at 12:52, drilling in his second of the night off another pass from Streit. Good work by Maxim Lapierre and defenceman Ryan O’Byrne did the spadework on this one.
Fourteen minutes of goalless hockey evaporated with two lightning-fast Canadiens goals, Kovalev and Streit, deflecting in a Ryder shot that for a time looked like a hat-trick for the Newfoundlander, scoring at 6:43 and 6:52 of the third, practically bringing down the Bell Centre roof.
And then, the improbable/impossible: Kovalev’s second of the night on the power-play, a one-timer from his favourite faceoff-circle spot at 15:38, tied the game at 5-5. It was his 29th of the season. To a thrilling overtime, then the shootout.
History made, fans delirious, coaches drained. We’ll be critiquing the highs and lows of this one for months.