MONTREAL – The Toronto Maple Leafs had many reasons to be upset Saturday night, but it was Max Pacioretty’s showboating that stood out the most.
Pacioretty celebrated his second goal of Montreal’s 4-2 victory over the Leafs on Saturday night by twirling his stick and pretending to sheathe it like a sword.
“The goal stirred our emotions a bit,” said Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle. “If they want to hot dog, spin the sword, those kind of things… That was what stirred the pot.”
“You don’t really like to see that kind of stuff,” added Toronto forward James van Riemsdyk.
Pacioretty put the Canadiens up 4-0 at that point, and coach Carlyle thought the celebration was exactly what his Leafs needed.
“That’s when we got involved in the game,” said Carlyle. “We got emotionally involved. We were better after that.”
Toronto answered with two quick goals. Riemsdyk netted the first, lifting the puck from a tight angle into the roof of the net over a crouching Carey Price at 18:10 of the second. And Mason Raymond, who was on the ice for Pacioretty’s goal and said the celebration ignited him, scored 22 seconds later to make it 4-2.
“Normally it’s a bad break, when you allow a goal at the end of a period,” said Pacioretty. “The period ending there helped us. We had time to recuperate, we figured out what we did wrong.”
The Canadiens kept the Leafs off the score sheet in the third, extending Toronto’s winless streak away from home to seven games.
“We need to find our spark,” said Laval-native Jonathan Bernier, who made 35 saves for the Leafs. “We have to be excited to play, and we have to find a way to score goals. That’s what we were doing at the start of the season.”
The Canadiens wasted no time getting their first past Bernier after the Leafs took a penalty for interference in the game’s first minute.
Pacioretty scored his eighth of the season on the power play at 0:58 after taking a crisp pass from P.K. Subban, who was deep in his own zone. Pacioretty walked in on the breakaway and got off three shots on net before sliding one past Bernier’s outstretched leg.
“The power-play goal put us back on our heels,” said Carlyle. “They made a stretch pass, we didn’t have coverage on Pacioretty, and he got three whacks at it. That’s how far we were behind on the play.”
Price got an assist on the goal, his first point of the season.
Subban added to the lead at 16:13 of the first after a David Desharnais face-off win landed on his stick. Subban took a step towards the goal and beat Bernier with a wrist shot over his blocker.
The goal was the first for a Habs defenceman in nine games dating back to Nov. 7, when Andrei Markov scored against the Senators.
The Canadiens added to their lead at 15:05 of the second period when Tomas Plekanec fired home his ninth of the year on a two-on-one with Daniel Briere.
Pacioretty put the game out of reach two minutes later while playing shorthanded. He followed up with his celebration.
“It was a strange shot,” said Bernier. “His release surprised me. It’s a goal that I would love to get back. I was expecting a wider shot. That’s a stop I need to make.”
The goal was Pacioretty’s team-leading ninth of the year. He also finished the game with an assist, and took a career-high 10 shots on net.
“His play does his talking for him,” said Subban of Pacioretty. “When he’s confident, he’s one of our best forwards.
“He can do it all. He’s big, he can skate, he’s physical, he can shoot the puck, probably one of the harder wristers in the league. It’s a big boost for our team.”
Price made 34 saves on the night and is fifth-best in the league among goaltenders with a .937 save percentage.
Both the Canadiens (15-9-3) and Maple Leafs (14-10-3) were coming off 3-2 losses in extra time on Friday night. Montreal lost to the Washington Capitals in a shootout, while Buffalo scored 38 seconds into overtime to beat Toronto.
Notes: The Leafs and Canadiens entered the game tied in the standings with 31 points.…Montreal rookie Michael Bournival was out of the lineup.…The Leafs were without injured players Dave Bolland (ankle) and Joffrey Lupul (groin).…The Habs and Maple Leafs meet three more times this season. The next matchup is Jan. 18 at the Air Canada Centre.