MONTREAL – New coach Davis Payne liked what he saw from his St. Louis Blues, even after they coughed up a third-period lead.
The Blues, now 5-3-1 since Payne replaced Andy Murray behind the bench on Jan. 2, scored on their only chance in overtime as Andy McDonald beat Carey Price with a wrist shot at 3:19 for a 4-3 victory over the struggling Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.
A moment earlier, goaltender Ty Conklin had stopped Montreal defenceman Andrei Markov in alone to keep his team alive.
“We knew Montreal would make a push in the third period,” said Payne, whose team has won five of its last six games and ends a three-game road trip Thursday night in Ottawa. “You don’t like giving up leads, but we got the two points.
“It got a little open there and they controlled the puck for most of the 4-on-4, but we got a great save on Markov and scored when we got a chance.”
The Canadiens erased a two-goal deficit in the third period on goals from Benoit Pouliot – his second of the night – and Mike Cammalleri, whose tally with 33 seconds left in regulation forced overtime.
Video review was needed to confirm the goal by Cammalleri, who tipped Jaroslav Spacek’s shot out of the air past Conklin. It was originally thought that Scott Gomez had scored with a high stick.
Pouliot also scored in the first period for Montreal (23-23-5), which is winless in three games.
David Perron, Paul Kariya and Alexander Steen scored in the opening frame for St. Louis (22-20-7).
Montreal coach Jacques Martin said his team earned a point rather than let one slip away.
“I didn’t like how we played in the first two periods, but we battled in the third,” he said. “We were playing too much in our own zone in the first two.”
The Blues, who end a three-game road trip Thursday night in Ottawa, rested top goalie Chris Mason in favour of Conklin, who made 35 saves and outplayed Price, who faced 28 shots. It was the veteran Conklin’s first start in eight games.
“He hasn’t played in a while and to be that sharp shows you what kind of pro he is,” said Payne.
It was an eventful night for Price, who skated far out of his crease to play a slow-moving puck along the boards in the first period and went down hard after a huge collision with tough forward Cam Janssen with the Blues leading 2-0.
Roman Hamrlik jumped Janssen and Price dropped his gloves to try to get him as well. Conklin skated to the Montreal blue-line with a thought to taking on Price but stopped when the skirmish was broken up.
“I think he was trying to challenge me,” said Janssen. “I couldn’t stop laughing.
“We’ll see what happens next time we play, but I think they’ll have (enforcer) Georges Laraque in the lineup that time. Maybe I’ll try scoring a goal on him instead.”
Conkin ended up with the extra two minutes for leaving his crease to join an altercation and eight seconds into the power play, Pouliot scored.
Price did not speak to the media after the game, but Martin defended his goalie.
“It was the right play to come out and play it,” he said. “The player hit him and it started something.
“I thought he reacted well. He gave us a strong game.”
The crowd of 21,273 got into the game early as Travis Moen and B.J. Crombeen dropped the gloves in the second minute of play, but things quickly went wrong for Montreal.
With Hal Gill serving a delay of game call, Gomez saw his weak clearing bid intercepted by Steen, whose point shot was tipped past Price by Perron at 2:57.
Only 38 seconds later, Price lost sight of a puck beside his net and Kariya had no trouble putting it in.
With 13 seconds left in the period, a 2-on-2 rush was botched by Montreal, leaving Steen alone to bang in Jay McClement’s rebound for his fourth goal in the last five games.
Montreal worked harder in the second and Conklin made a brilliant glove save on Cammalleri’s point blank backhander early, but the crowd booed through much of a tight-checking 20 minutes until the home side killed a 1:13 two-man Blues advantage in the final minutes.
The crowd went wild when the Canadiens jumped on a Barrett Jackman giveaway and Gomez fed Pouliot for a goal 9:11 into the third to start the comeback. Montreal outshot the Blues 14-5 in the third and 4-1 in overtime.
The Canadiens used two defencemen, Ryan O’Byrne and Marc-Andre Bergeron, on their fourth line, but they saw little action.
Notes: O’Byrne returned after missing four games to be with an ailing family member and three games as a healthy scratch. . . Laraque and Matt D’Agostini were scratched. . . St. Louis did not dress Mike Weaver, Patrik Berglund and D.J. King.