MONTREAL – Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau has Sergei Kostitsyn to thank for cancelling his winter vacation.
Kostitsyn’s unassisted goal with 22 seconds left in a see-saw battle gave Montreal a 5-4 victory over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.
With his team’s fourth straight win, Carbonneau beat out Washington coach Bruce Boudreau for the honour of serving as Boston bench boss Claude Juliens’ assistant at the all-star game in Montreal on Jan. 25.
“I was going to go to Florida, lie on a beach and enjoy it,” said Carbonneau in mock disappointment. “I told (general manager) Bob Gainey, too bad I don’t have a bonus for the all-star game.
“It’s going to be strange, but it’s going to be fun. It’s always a privilege when you have a chance to be around superstars. I never had a chance to go to an all-star game as a player.”
Tomas Plekanec, with two, Robert Lang and Andrei Kostitsyn also scored for Montreal (25-10-6), which has won four games in a row and is 9-1-1 in its last 11 games despite injuries to top goalie Carey Price and veterans Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay, Christopher Higgins and Georges Laraque.
Alexander Semin had two goals while Tomas Fleischmann and Michael Nylander also scored for Washington (27-13-3), which had a seven-game winning run snapped 24 hours earlier with a 3-0 loss at home to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Canadiens went into the third period down 2-1, but took leads twice only to see the Capitals tie the game each time.
Then, with the sellout crowd of 21,273 resigned to overtime, Kostitsyn pushed the puck into the Washington zone, fished it out from between Milan Jurcina’s skates and beat a surprised Brent Johnson from the slot.
“The defenceman just couldn’t see the puck,” said the younger Kostitsyn brother. “I saw it in his legs. I just took a shot. I didn’t see where I was shooting.”
All-star coaching jobs are awarded to the ones whose teams have the best winning percentages at the mid-point of the season. Carbonneau won by a tiny margin.
It may be uneasy for Carbonneau to be behind the same bench as Julien, who he replaced in Montreal, in a sense, although Gainey had served as head coach for a few months before Carbonneau took over Julien’s job to start the 2006-07 season.
The two men also had some bad blood brewing in the first round of playoffs last spring, a tight series won 4-3 by Montreal, but Carbonneau said “I don’t see any problem.”
As for Bourdreau, missing out on an all-star weekend after coming so close was “the story of my life,” he said. “What I’m more interested in, quite frankly, is that Florida won (8-4 over Atlanta).
“We could have gained on Carolina and stayed closer to Boston, so it was a heartbreaker to watch us lose like that. But maybe we’ll learn from our mistakes.”
Michael Nylander’s power-play goal at 12:21 of the third period tied the game as Alex Ovechkin’s point shot ping-ponged off a stick, off Nylander’s leg and into the net for a goal that looked like it would force overtime until Kostitsyn’s late goal.
The Canadiens dominated the early going, but it was Washington that struck first when a harmless-looking point shot from Mike Green hit the back of Semin’s skate and veered past Jaroslav Halak at 7:59.
With Alex Kovalev in the penalty box, Mike Komisarek rang a puck around the end boards out to centre ice, where Plekanec won a race for it and beat Johnson between the pads with a shot from the right wing at 9:20. It was Montreal’s eighth short-handed goal of the season.
Semin struck again 13:04 into the second frame when he stole the puck from Patrice Brisebois at the Montreal blue-line, went in alone and lifted a quick shot over Halak. They were Semin’s first goals since Dec. 12, although he missed six games in that span with an injury.
Lang, with his 250th career goal during a two-man advantage, and Andrei Kostitsyn scored power-play goals to take the lead early in the third, only to see Fleischmann tie the game at 4:15 by finishing a three-man rush with Matt Bradley and Nylander.
Only 16 seconds later, rookie Max Pacioretty slipped a cross-ice pass to Plekenec to go in alone and beat Johnson with a high shot to take back the lead with Montreal’s third goal in a 2:25 span.
With a goal and an assist, Andrei Kostitsyn has four goals and four assists in his last four games.
On their four-game winning streak, the Canadiens have scored 23 goals. Their struggling power play has struck for two goals in each of their last three games
Notes – Koivu sat out a 13th game with a sprained ankle but may be ready to return Tuesday in Boston. . .Yannick Weber sat out after making his NHL debut Thursday against Toronto and Steve Begin returned to the Montreal lineup. . . Boyd Gordon and Jeff Schultz were scratched for Washington, while Sergei Fedorov, who returned from injury Friday night against Columbus, didn’t dress.