ANAHEIM, Calif. – A few moments after Kyle Palmieri’s shootout attempt hit both Montreal posts and skittered along the goal line without going in, Andrei Markov’s shot left no doubt about an impressive win for the Canadiens.
Markov scored in the sixth round of the shootout, Dustin Tokarski stopped 39 shots to win his Montreal debut, and the Canadiens beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 Wednesday night for their sixth victory in eight games.
Brendan Gallagher had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, tying it late in the second period. Max Pacioretty got his 30th goal and captain Brian Gionta also scored in a big victory over the overall NHL leaders before the arrival of new acquisition Thomas Vanek.
“We knew we were going to play against the best team in the league, and they especially play great at home,” Markov said. “So we just tried to stick to the game plan and our system and do our job. That goal we got (from Gallagher) late in the second period helped us to stay in the game. Everybody played hard, and our goalie played unbelievable. He made great saves and was really in the game.”
But Tokarski and the Canadiens earned that second standings point by the slimmest of margins.
After a scoreless third period and overtime, Palmieri thought he had scored for Anaheim in the fifth round. The officials called it a goal on the ice, but reversed the ruling on video review. Tokarski also thought Palmieri had scored, but was grateful to see the replay.
“You get some breaks once in a while, I guess,” he said.
Montreal got a surprising effort from fill-in starter Tokarski, who made several sharp saves while earning his second career victory in his eighth NHL appearance. Tokarski was recalled after the Olympic break to back up Peter Budaj while injured gold medallist Carey Price is out.
“I don’t know them very much, but they’re a heck of a team that has some All-Star players,” Tokarski said of the Ducks. “I just knew I had to take it as any other game and use what I got to get here.”
The AHL veteran also shook off a regrettable goal when Beauchemin’s dump-in pass took a weird bounce and went into his open net while he waited behind it for the puck.
“I made an error,” Tokarski said. “I should have stayed in my net. The scouting report was that there was bad glass here, so it was a lapse of judgment there. But the guys battled and got the tying goal before the period was over.”
Tim Jackman, Francois Beauchemin and Daniel Winnik scored early goals for Anaheim, which had won three straight. Jonas Hiller made 27 saves in the first loss since the Olympic break for the Ducks, who lamented a slow start.
“The first 10 minutes, everybody was still thinking about every trade that went on today,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They weren’t preparing the proper way … and we had to battle to get even.”
Both playoff-bound teams’ late-season acquisitions hadn’t yet joined them at Honda Center. The Ducks made no major moves on the trade deadline, but acquired injured defenceman Stephane Robidas one day earlier.
Montreal made one of the deadline’s biggest acquisitions by snagging Vanek, the Austrian goal-scorer. Vanek will become the Canadiens’ top scorer when he suits up, likely for Thursday’s game in Phoenix.
Montreal went up 2-0 in the first period when Pacioretty then converted a cross-ice pass from David Desharnais, but the Ducks rallied in the second period with two goals 1:59 apart. Jackman scored on a smart tip of Sbisa’s long shot, and Beauchemin tied it with that fluke power-play goal into Tokarski’s vacated net.
“It was about time it happened to somebody else,” Hiller said with a laugh. “I always get those bounces. … We should definitely improve the power play if that’s the only way we can score goals.”
Anaheim went ahead on Winnik’s midair swat of Matt Beleskey’s shot for just his third goal of a hardworking season, but Gallagher evened it when the Ducks couldn’t clear a loose puck in front of Hiller.
Late in the first period, the Honda Center paid tribute to Montreal forward George Parros with a video tribute and a standing ovation for the longtime Anaheim enforcer. The mustachioed brawler with an economics degree from Princeton and a clothing company in nearby Costa Mesa played six seasons for the Ducks before leaving as a free agent in 2012.
Parros, still the Anaheim franchise leader with 812 penalty minutes, acknowledged the cheers by waving and pounding his chest above his heart.
NOTES: Anaheim hadn’t been in a shootout since Dec. 6 or played an overtime game since Jan. 5. … Teemu Selanne was a last-minute scratch with the flu for Anaheim. With Dustin Penner (trade) and Mathieu Perreault (upper-body injury) also out, defenceman Luca Sbisa played nine shifts at left wing. … Montreal acquired G Devan Dubnyk earlier Wednesday.