Canadiens’ Tomas Plekanec and Alex Kovalev celebrate Plekanec’s game-tying goal, scored with 14.6 seconds left in regulation time.
Gary Wiepert, Reuters
Someone tore the word "quit" out of the Canadiens’ dictionary.
Tomas Plekanec scored two goals in a span of just over two minutes late in the game, his 28th and 29th of the season, and Christopher Higgins scored at 3:38 of overtime on a beautiful pass from defenceman Mark Streit to give the Habs a wild 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Buffalo Sabres and first place – again – in the Eastern Conference.
Streit assisted on all three of Montreal’s third-period goals.
The Canadiens, nailed early and often by penalties that were and sometimes maybe weren’t infractions, had a chance tonight to pull back into first place in the East. But they seemed not headed for that luxury, falling behind the Sabres 3-1 until late in the game.
With the win, the Canadiens vaulted the idle Pittsburgh Penguins into first in the conference, using their game in hand over the Pens to full advantage. They’re now six points clear of the Ottawa Senators to lead the Northeast Division.
The New Jersey Devils, meanwhile, shootout winners against Philadelphia, are five points behind the Canadiens with the same 78 games played.
The Habs had the game’s first four penalties, and five in all, forcing them into penalty-killing far too often to let the team build a head of offensive steam.
Alex Kovalev scored the Canadiens’ first goal in the second period, his 34th on a lovely passing play with Mikhail Grabovski. That tied the game before Buffalo scored a pair.
Then Plekanec scored his 28th with 2:31 left to play, on the power play, deflecting home Mark Streit’s shot from the blue line.
Plekanec was parked on Miller’s doorstep to jam in a close-range equalizer with 14.6 seconds left on the clock, Habs goalie Carey Price pulled in favour of a sixth skater, to force overtime. That set the stage for Higgins’s overtime heroics.
Price was excellent in facing a barrage of 38 Sabres shots in regulation time while Montreal managed 27 on Buffalo’s Ryan Miller.
The Canadiens will be in Toronto Saturday night to take on the Maple Leafs, who on Thursday were eliminated from playoff contention for the third consecutive year.
Christopher Higgins (left), Mark Streit, Saku Koivu and many Canadiens fans celebrate Higgins’s overtime game-winner. The two women bottom left presumably are Buffalo fans.
Gary Wiepert, Reuters