MONTREAL – Down 2-0 with three minutes left to play, the game looked to be lost for the Montreal Canadiens.
Then came their most stunning reversal of the season.
Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta scored in the final 2:22 of regulation and Max Pacioretty scored 3:43 into overtime as the Canadiens stormed back to defeat the Boston Bruins 3-2 in Saturday night.
”It’s definitely a dream come true,” said Pacioretty after a goal that sparked a frenzy among those in the Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 who had not left early thinking the Bruins had the game in the bag.
”We were really pressing in the third. Everyone was going.”
The win between divisional rivals left both with 49 points, but Boston (21-12-7) retained first place in the Northeast because it has two games in hand.
Montreal (23-16-3) stayed in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but they look to be out of the slump that saw them lose eight of 10 from Dec. 10 to Dec. 30. The Habs have taken seven of a possible eight points in their last four games.
The Canadiens have won five straight games over Boston, including all three meetings this season.
Patrice Bergeron had given Boston the lead with pair of second period goals as the Bruins held a distinct edge in the play for the first 40 minutes.
But Montreal outshot them 18-8 in the third and 5-0 in overtime as they stormed back as Boston tried to sit on its lead.
With 3:28 to play, Michael Ryder was sent off for tripping James Wisniewski and Montreal got its first puck past Tim Thomas on the power play. Gomez threw a soft shot toward the net from along the boards and saw it go in off Zdeno Chara’s skate at 17:38.
With goalie Carey Price pulled for an extra attacker, Wisniewski’s point shot went in off Gionta’s skate to tie the game with 48 seconds left in regulation.
Then came overtime, and Pacioretty used linemate David Desharnais as a screen on a long-range wrist shot on a rush that beat Thomas under the crossbar.
”We were down two goals, I don’t think that’s any reason (for fans) to go home,” said defenceman Hal Gill. ”(Assistant coach) Kirk Muller was one of the loudest voices on the bench saying this is why we play 60 minutes. That was with 10 minutes left, and he was right.”
After Pacioretty scored, he gave the six-foot-nine Chara a shove, which started a minor melee that ended with the Bruins’ captain getting a misconduct penalty.
”They found a way to win and we found a way to give it to them,” said Boston coach Claude Julien.
Montreal’s top-line winger Michael Cammalleri left the game in the second period due to sickness and did not return. Cammalleri is in his longest scoring drought of the season at nine games without a goal.
Montreal outshot Boston 42-29 overall. Wisniewski has two goals and four assists in five games since joining Montreal in a trade from the New York Islanders.
The Canadiens, who have scored only 20 goals in their last 10 games, hoped they had a goal 7:57 into the third when Mathieu Darche batted in a rebound, but it was waived off and replays showed it was struck with a high stick.
But the energy that produced Darche’s chance didn’t let up as Montreal kept the pressure on through the third.
”After two, they had more chances than us, but then we started to play with more intensity and started winning the battles,” said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin. ”We got one on the power play and it was just a matter of getting the puck on the net. It doesn’t have to be a hard shot.”
A dull, defensive first period saw no goals and few scoring chances other than a quick glove save by Price on rookie defenceman Steven Kampfer midway through.
The Bruins jumped on two errors in the Montreal zone in the second to take the lead as Alexandre Picard lost the puck to set up a tic-tac-toe play finished into an open side by Bergeron at 4:18.
Bergeron got no resistance from Gomez in front of the net as he swept in is second of the game at 14:27. The Quebec City native has two goals and three assists in three meetings with Montreal this season.
Notes:Winger Nathan Horton, who left practice with an undisclosed ”discomfort,” was not dressed for Boston. Defenceman Mark Stuart (fractured finger) missed a 14th game. . . Roman Hamrlik returned after missing one game with an undisclosed injury. Yannick Weber was scratched Lars Eller didn’t dress for a third straight game for Montreal, who are missing rearguards Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges for the season with torn ACLs.