MONTREAL – Fifty shots is usually enough to win a hockey game, but apparently not when Craig Anderson is in goal.
Anderson made 48 saves and the Ottawa Senators staged a third-period comeback to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 in the opening game of the first playoff series to be played between the geographic rivals.
The Canadiens set team playoff records with 27 shots in the second period and 50 overall in what was a losing cause mostly because Anderson outplayed Montreal goalie Carey Price, who stopped 27 shots at the other end.
“What can you say? Andy’s our MVP,” said defenceman Marc Methot, who scored the game-winning goal. “He’s a machine back there. He just keeps going and going. We’re lucky to have him in the net.”
The Senators will take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final going into Game 2 on Friday night at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens will be without one of their hottest forwards, centre Lars Eller, who was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher bleeding heavily from the face and taken to hospital. He suffered a concussion, as well as fractures to his face and teeth, after an open-ice hit from Ottawa defenceman Eric Gryba.
Eller had taken an ill-considered pass up the middle from Raphael Diaz when he was flattened by Gryba with a hit that the NHL is likely to review for further discipline. He was given a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct.
“It was a hockey play,” said Ottawa coach Paul MacLean. “Our guy hit him, but Player 61 (Diaz) is the guy to blame.”
“I can’t comment,” said Montreal coach Michel Therrien.
Brendan Gallagher scored during the resulting power play to put Montreal up 2-1, but the Senators’ league-best penalty killers then shut the door during a full two-minute, two-man advantage to stay in the game heading into the third.
Jakob Silfverberg tied it with a shot that sailed between Price’s legs from the right circle 3:27 into the period and Mathot swept a shot from the point into the top corner to put Ottawa ahead at 5:20.
Guillaume Latendresse, a former Canadien who was booed by most of the 21,273 in the seats, sealed the win with a goal that went in off his body as he drove to the net at 13:55.
Erik Karlsson scored in the first period for Ottawa, while Rene Bourque got one early in the second for Montreal.
“You just have to give your team an opportunity to stay in the game and win,” said Anderson, who led NHL goaltenders with a 1.69 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage this season, but likely won’t get the Vezina Trophy because he missed 20 games with an ankle injury.
“Montreal played a really good second period. They had a lot of momentum. Our penalty kill did a good job of finding a way to keep them to one goal and give us a chance to get back in the game. We went from having no momentum in the second and taking momentum back in the third.”
Therrien was impressed.
“We played a good game and we deserved a better result,” he said. “I’m proud of our team.
“We had 50 shots. We went to the net. But the story of the game was Anderson. He was extraordinary.”
Anderson was sharp as the Senators weathered a fierce Canadiens push in the first 10 minutes before Karlsson put on a show for the opening goal at 17:25.
The 2012 Norris Trophy winner, who returned late in the regular season from an injury to his Achilles tendon, skated through the neutral zone into Montreal territory and worked a give and go with Kyle Turris, redirecting the return pass along the ice between Price’s pads.
Montreal tied the game when Bourque came out from behind the net and beat Anderson with a backhand under the crossbar on Montreal’s 34th shot of the game at 13:09.
After the Gryba hit and Ottawa down a man, Gallagher banged in a Tomas Plekanec pass at 14:08 to put Montreal in the lead.
Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said the quantity of shots was fine, and the quality was there some of the time, but his team needs to do better in Game 2.
“We lost a little momentum there,” he said. “We battled hard most of the game, but we’ve got to do a little better job of getting second and third opportunities.
“We had a lot of good chances, quality chances, but we’ve got to find a way to get those rebounds or a little more urgency in front of their net. He’s a good goalie and he’s going to make the first stop, for sure.”
Gryba’s hit came after Montreal’s P.K. Subban flattened Chris Neil with an open ice hit, but the Ottawa tough guy wasn’t injured on the play.
Notes: Montreal’s 50 shots set a team record for a regulation playoff game. … The Canadiens are now 50-28-2 all-time in playoff Game 1s. Ottawa is 11-11. … Montreal sat out Jeff Halpern, Colby Armstrong, Davis Drewiske and Yannick Weber. … Peter Regin, Matt Kassian, Patrick Wiercioch and Andre Benoit were among Ottawa’s scratches. … The game was the first between Canadian teams in the playoffs since 2004. Ottawa met Toronto and Vancouver took on Calgary in the first round that season.