TORONTO – It turns out the Montreal Canadiens were desperate too.
The Habs ended a two-game losing streak with a gutsy 4-3 shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. With rumours swirling about Toronto’s tenuous management situation, the Leafs had a lot to play for. So did Montreal. “It was a huge two points for us,” said Canadiens captain Saku Koivu. “We knew coming in here this wouldn’t be an easy place (to play). They’re a desperate team, and they needed the win as bad as we did.”
After taking at least one point in 10 of their first 12 games, the Canadiens came into Tuesday’s game having lost five of their last eight games.
Montreal battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits, took their first lead on Alex Kovalev’s second goal early in the third period, and, though they allowed a goal to Mats Sundin with less than 18 seconds in regulation, got shootout goals from Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn to win the game.
Habs head coach Guy Carbonneau said the game should have ended in regulation, and with a penalty to Leafs forward Jason Blake.
“I still think they should’ve disallowed the goal,” Carbonneau said of Toronto’s game-tying marker. “Blake went right through the paint and interfered with our goaltender before Sundin scored. It’s unfortunate, but at least we fought back and won in the shootout.”
Though the Canadiens have struggled over the last two weeks, Koivu could sense the desperation coming from the Maple Leafs.
“Sometimes when you’re really desperate, you may be a little bit too tense . . . and you may not play your best,” he said. “I thought they came out real hard, real strong in the first period, but then I think we were able to get back in the second.”
The Canadiens next take on the Devils in New Jersey on Thursday, the beginning of a stretch of five games in nine days.
Carbonneau says they’re ready for it.
“We just finished six games in nine nights,” he said. “That was really hard. The next two or three weeks won’t be easier, because there are no easy games. But I think the schedule’s going to be a little easier for us, and we’ll try and take advantage of it.”