MONTREAL – The Edmonton Oilers taught Montreal Canadiens’ forward Lars Eller a tough lesson.
Eller said the Oilers were a “junior team” that was “all over the place” before Edmonton’s 4-3 victory over Montreal on Tuesday night,
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins took offence to Eller’s comments and used it to motivate his youthful team.
“When you’ve got some young player who’s trying to get his feet wet calling an organization a junior team, people take notice,” said Eakins. “I knew it was going to turn. It makes for great banter in our dressing room.
“That is a total hockey god thing. I’m sure that young man has learnt his lesson, and I highly doubt you’ll see anything like that out of his mouth again.”
Eller, Montreal’s leading goal-scorer, had only one shot on net and didn’t earn any points in the loss.
“He’s a young player,” said Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien of Eller. “I think he’ll learn from that. He made inappropriate comments.”
Ales Hemsky and Ladislav Smid both scored in the second period for Edmonton (3-6-1) to tie the game 2-2. Jeff Petry and Ryan Jones then had back-to-back goals in the third to give the Oilers a 4-2 lead.
Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher struck in the first period to give Montreal (5-4-0) the lead and Brian Gionta scored with three seconds left to play.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was at the heart of Edmonton’s turnaround with two assists.
“I got a huge momentum boost from (Eakins’) talk between periods,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “That was big for us. I thought we responded well.
“It’s what we needed at that point. We were losing battles, we weren’t playing with the passion that we need to win games in that situation.”
With the win, the Oilers ended a six-game road trip on a high. They went 2-3-1 on that stretch, and sit in last place in the Pacific Division.
Plekanec put the Canadiens on the board first when he scored a power-play goal at 16:36 of the first period.
Andrei Markov started the play, showing great vision with a diagonal cross-ice pass from the blue-line. Plekanec made no mistake slotting home his fourth goal of the season between Devan Dubnyk’s legs. Rookie Michael Bournival got an assist on the play.
Gallagher increased Montreal’s lead less than two minutes later. Gallagher intercepted a poor clearance by the Oilers’ Jones and beat Dubnyk glove-side with a quick wrist shot.
Edmonton answered with two goals of its own in quick succession. Hemsky scored the first at 12:50 of the second period, getting around Alex Galchenyuk with ease and beating Price above the shoulder.
Smid then tied the game 2-2 with his first of the year, when he put the rebound of a Nugent-Hopkins shot into a gaping net at 15:37.
Edmonton completed the comeback when Petry scored at 7:59 of the third. Nugent-Hopkins pretended to shoot on a 2-on-1, but instead dished the puck to Petry who made no mistake from close range.
Jones put the game out of reach, scoring the eventual game-winner at 9:57. Brian Gionta scored a late consolation goal for the Canadiens with three seconds remaining.
“We can’t expect to play one period and win,” said Gionta. “We had a great start, we did what we wanted to, we stuck to our game plan for the first period, and we didn’t adjust after that.
“We have to do a better job of finding a way to play 60 minutes.”
The injury-plagued Canadiens were without the services of Max Pacioretty, Brandon Prust and Daniel Briere. All three forwards sustained injuries last week.
Edmonton was missing star forward Taylor Hall and veteran Ryan Smyth. Hall, who injured his knee on Saturday in the Oilers’ win over Ottawa, is expected to be out four weeks.
Rookie defenceman Nathan Beaulieu, who was sent down to Hamilton on the weekend, was recalled by the Canadiens and played in place of Jarred Tinordi. Beaulieu finished the game with three blocked shots and 11:26 of ice time.