Game 700 – Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT)

Game 700
Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2 (OT)
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON

Like many of their fellow Montréalers, the Canadiens are away from home over the holidays. Jaroslav Halak made sure they took the two points from Saturday’s game with them.

The Canadiens couldn’t escape the Air Canada Centre fast enough after Halak stole a win from the Toronto Maple Leafs, making 47 saves before Andrei Kostitsyn’s goal 34 seconds into overtime gave them a 3-2 win.

“Usually games like this you try to run as fast as you can out of the building,” centre Scott Gomez said after Montréal’s fourth consecutive win – all on the road and all with Halak in the net. “I’ll be honest. Jaro kept us in.”

Halak has been on an unbelievable run during Montréal’s four-game win streak, stopping 180 of the 186 shots he’s faced. Halak has shared the crease with Carey Price this season – watching Price get nine straight starts at one point – but won’t relinquish the No. 1 job as long as he keeps this up.

“I think he’s probably at his best so far this year,” coach Jacques Martin said. “He seems to be in a zone and has made a lot of excellent saves.”

Kostitsyn’s game-winner came on a hard wrist shot from the top of the circle that beat Leafs netminder Jonas Gustavsson and gave Montréal a 10-3 record this season in games decided after regulation.

The Maple Leafs found themselves in a familiar position – they fell behind 2-0 for the 19th time in 39 games this season. Gomez opened the scoring on a power play at 3:34 of the first period after Gustavsson failed to control a rebound.

Tomas Plekanec made it 2-0 just 54 seconds later, turning Leafs defenceman Jeff Finger inside-out before rifling a high shot past the Swedish netminder.

“It’s always tough when they get two early goals,” Gustavsson said.

But Montréal sat back after that and relied on Halak, who was brilliant in the face of another barrage: The Canadiens have allowed 40, 50, 47 and 49 shots during their four-game winning streak.

“I think we stopped skating,” Plekanec said. “We didn’t skate at all, we were just watching. We’ve got to be better. It’s great we got two points, we found a way to win in the overtime, but we can’t be satisfied with how we played in the second and third period.”

Halak held Toronto off the scoreboard during a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:18 in the first period and stopped Alexei Ponikarovsky on a second-period breakaway. He stopped the Leafs’ first 32 shots before a blast from the point by Ian White went through traffic and into the net at 15:07 of the second.

Toronto tied it 2:41 into the third period on an odd-looking goal by Jason Blake, who was batting at a loose puck from the edge of the crease and saw it go in after he was shoved from behind by Montréal defenceman Marc-André Bergeron.

But Halak was perfect the rest of the way.

“Halak has been playing well, we had a lot of shots on him and had good traffic in front of him,” Blake said. “He’s a good goaltender.”

Toronto had chances to win the game in regulation. Niklas Hagman rang the post on a rush up the left wing before Halak got his glove on a hard shot from Phil Kessel, who also missed an empty side of the net on a one-timer with 10 seconds left in regulation.

At 19-18-3, the Canadiens have climbed into seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. They visit Ottawa, Florida and Tampa Bay this week to complete a season-long seven-game road trip.

Thanks to Halak, they’ve won the first four games.

“It just shows the focus he’s had,” Gomez said. “What can you say? He’s in a zone. It’s almost like you’re scared not to give him that many shots because we don’t know what will happen.”

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BOXSCORE
1st Period
TOR PEN – 02:35 – Schenn, high sticking
MTL PP GOAL – 03:34 – Gomez (Pacioretty, Bergeron)
MTL GOAL – 04:28 – Plekanec (Cammalleri, Markov)
TOR PEN – 07:04 – Orr, roughing
MTL PEN – 08:53 – Metropolit, interference
MTL PEN – 09:35 – Moen, hooking
MTL PEN – 15:40 – O’Byrne, holding

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 08:50 – A. Kostitsyn, slashing
TOR GOAL – 15:07 – White (Kulemin, Stajan)

3rd Period
TOR GOAL – 02:41 – Blake (Wallin, Komisarek)

Overtime
MTL GOAL – 00:34 – A. Kostitsyn (Markov, Gomez)

GOALTENDERS
MTL – Halak (W, 47-49)
TOR – Gustavsson (OTL, 20-23)

SHOTS ON GOAL
MTL – 9+5+8+1 = 23
TOR – 16+17+16+0 = 49

ROSTERS
MTLGoaltenders: Jaroslav Halak, Carey Price. Defence: Marc-André Bergeron, Hal Gill (A), Josh Gorges, Andrei Markov (A), Ryan O’Byrne, Jaroslav Spacek. Forwards: Michael Cammalleri (A), Matt D’Agostini, Scott Gomez, Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei Kostitsyn, Maxim Lapierre, Georges Laraque, Glen Metropolit, Travis Moen, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Benoît Pouliot.
TORGoaltenders: Jonas Gustavsson, Vesa Toskala. Defence: François Beauchemin (A), Jeff Finger, Tomas Kaberle (A), Mike Komisarek (A), Luke Schenn, Ian White. Forwards: Jason Blake, Mikhail Grabovski, Niklas Hagman, Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin, Jamal Mayers, Colton Orr, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Wayne Primeau, Matt Stajan, Lee Stempniak, Rickard Wallin.

ATTENDANCE
19,250

THREE STARS
Jaroslav Halak (MTL)
⭐⭐ Andrei Kostitsyn (MTL)
⭐⭐⭐ Mike Komisarek (TOR)