MONTREAL – It had been more than a month since the St. Louis Blues won a game on the road, so going into the Bell Centre and knocking off the Montreal Canadiens tasted sweet to goaltender Manny Legace.
“It was a great win,” he said. “The mood in here is beautiful.”
Brad Boyes scored in regulation time and got the lone goal in the shootout as the Blues ended a 10-game road winless run with a 4-3 victory over the Canadiens on Tuesday night. Their last road win was a 4-1 decision at Colorado on Feb. 14.
“It’s been painful,” added Legace. “Everything that could happen, happened. Guys would shoot 10 feet wide of the net and it would hit someone and go in.
“Now we have games coming up against teams that are fighting for a playoff spot and why not try to knock them off? We dug ourselves out of the playoffs a couple of weeks ago.”
A skid that has seen the Blues win only twice in 14 games has the playoffs an near-impossible goal. They’re 13 points out of eighth place in the Western Conference with nine games to play.
Boyes scored on a backhand shot that trickled in off goalie Jaroslav Halak’s stick in the shootout, while Legace stopped all three Montreal shooters.
Boyes, Keith Tkachuk and Andy McDonald scored in regulation for St. Louis (30-32-11)
Christopher Higgins, Saku Koivu and Mikhail Grabovski scored in regulation for Montreal (40-24-10), which tied NHL Eastern Conference leader New Jersey with 90 points, but the Devils hold two games in hand.
Coach Guy Carbonneau saw it as an important point that was let slip away by a lazy second period in which the Blues scored twice.
“We know what kind of game we need to play at this time of year – a grinding game,” he said. “We needed more of that to win.
“We got a point, but we wasted a chance for two points against a team we should have beat, but that’s because our work level wasn’t high enough.”
While Halak remained unbeaten in regulation time in nine career starts at the Bell Centre (8-0-1), he had shaky moments in his second straight start after shutting out the New York Islanders on Saturday, although he made a fine save on Tkachuk in overtime.
“He was weak on the second goal, but otherwise, he was solid,” added Carbonneau.
St. Louis took a 3-2 lead into the third period, but the Canadiens stepped up the pressure for a 13-4 shot advantage in the third and a 30-28 edge overall.
A turnover at the Montreal blue-line gave the Canadiens a 3-on-2 and Sergei Kostitsyn slipped a pass to Grabovski for a wrist shot to the top corner at 6:36 to tie it.
The Blues went on a two-man advantage early and Tkachuk got his 22nd goal when he tipped in an Erik Johnson blast from the top of the left faceoff circle at 4:51. Higgins got it back at 11:28 as he backhanded a Sergei Kostitsyn pass behind Legace from the edge of the crease.
Montreal took the lead 9:32 into the second frame on a power play when Koivu got a tap-in goal after some tough work by Christopher Higgins in the slot, but only 10 seconds later McDonald’s shot on a rush down the left side went under Halak’s arm to tie the score.
Boyes put St. Louis ahead at 15:57 with his 38th, converting a sweet turnaround pass from Paul Kariya, who had his first two-point game in 28 games since Jan. 19.
The Blues played the seventh of a nine-game road trip that takes them to Ottawa on Thursday and Chicago on Sunday. Montreal has a two-game set starting Thursday with Boston, against whom they are 6-0-0 this season.
The Blues had 10-game road losing runs in 1982 and in 2005-06, but their latest skid included two overtime losses that would have been ties in the past.
Notes: Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau celebrated his 48th birthday. … Montreal signed right-wing prospect James T. Wyman from Dartmouth University and assigned him to AHL Hamilton, who then moved defenceman Jon Gleed to Cincinnati of the ECHL. Wyman was picked 100th overall in 2004. … Ryan O’Byrne, Steve Begin, Mathieu Dandenault and Maxim Lapierre were scratched for Montreal. Dan Hinote, Martin Rucinsky, Roman Polak and Cam Janssen didn’t play for St. Louis.