Ryder beat Andrew Raycroft top corner on the glove side with a powerful wrist shot on Montreal’s fourth shootout attempt Saturday night to lift the Canadiens to a 3-2, come-from-behind win over the rival Toronto Maple Leafs.
Just 24 hours earlier, Ryder was stopped on a backhand deke by Ryan Miller as the Buffalo Sabres beat the Canadiens 5-4 in a shootout.
“Last night I deked and didn’t have much success and the guys tonight were yelling at me to shoot,” Ryder said in a visitors’ dressing room full of smiles. “I was shooting all the way.”
Ryder’s shootout goal, with all 19,353 fans on their feet at Air Canada Centre, capped an enthralling affair between the two Original Six rivals, the first of eight head-to-head matchups on tap again this season.
“I knew my parents (back in Newfoundland) were watching Hockey Night in Canada so to do it on national TV is pretty special,” said Ryder.
“Everyone enjoys it except probably the goalies,” Raycroft said of the shootout. “We understand why it’s there, but it’s not always the best way to end a game.”
The win was Guy Carbonneau’s first as Habs head coach, and it was sweet after blowing a two-goal lead in Buffalo the night before.
“I’ve waited a long time for this opportunity,” he said. “The guys are real happy. Last night’s game left a bad taste in their mouth. The guys came back strong, even though they were tired, and played a great game.”
Sheldon Souray and former Leaf Mike Johnson scored in regulation for the Canadiens, who open the season strongly after tough games in Buffalo and Toronto.
“Three out of four points on the road, that’s great,” a jubilant George Gillett, Montreal’s owner, said as he worked the Habs dressing room.
Darcy Tucker and Matt Stajan replied for the Maple Leafs (1-1-1), who blew a 2-1 third-period lead.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow, especially because we were playing hard and had the lead heading into the third period,” said Stajan, who had a strong game.
David Aebischer stopped 36 shots in goal for Montreal while Raycroft stopped 31, both goalies outstanding on a night when the score should have been higher.
Both teams had power plays in overtime as a result of dubious penalties to Montreal’s’ Sergei Samsonov and later Tucker. The Leafs had tremendous pressure on their 4-on-3 advantage, but Aebischer stood tall, making huge saves on blasts from Bryan McCabe, Tomas Kaberle and Mats Sundin.
The Leafs seemed headed for a win before a former player tied it. Johnson, who began his career in Toronto, scored at 6:47 of the third period, snapping a shot from the high slot that beat Raycroft stick side. The play began with centre Radek Bonk hitting Leafs defenceman Hal Gill behind the net and getting the puck out to Johnson, who netted his first in a Montreal uniform after coming over in a trade from Phoenix this summer.
“Last night was a real disappointment, so tonight was a bit of a role reversal,” said Johnson. “We came back in a big game in a hostile environment.”
The Toronto native was asked if his friends were finding it hard to cheer for his new team.
“I have a lot of fairweather friends, they’ll cheer for whoever I’m playing for,” joked Johnson.
Andrew Wozniewski’s night lasted only 26 seconds, the Leafs defenceman suffered a shoulder injury on his very first shift and did not return to the game.
“Significant,” Leafs coach Paul Maurice said of the injury before adding that the player would be re-evaluated Sunday.
The hit of the night goes to Habs defenceman Mike Komisarek, who absolutely levelled Tucker with a clean but thunderous hit inside the Leafs zone in the second period.
The Habs opened the scoring 5:11 into an evenly played first period, Souray’s blast from the point on a power play beating a screened Raycroft, who couldn’t see a thing with Tomas Plekanec parked in front of him.
Tucker tied it at 9:28, one-timing a picture-perfect, cross-crease pass from Kyle Wellwood on a Leafs power play, the kind of play that requires soft hands and shows just why Leafs coach Paul Maurice may be a genius for starting Wellwood on the first line this season.
Stajan gave Toronto its first lead 4:38 into the second, a period dominated by the Leafs, sliding the puck under a sliding Garth Murray after Aebischer had made four straight stops at the end of a Toronto power play.
Johnson had a chance to give his team the lead with 7:25 left in the third period, flipping a shot over the goal with an empty net staring at him after Raycroft first kicked out a save on Alexander Perezhogin from in-close.
Raycroft stole the show during a Montreal power play with less than six minutes left in the third period, a toe save on Michael Ryder followed moments later by a breathtaking sliding pad save on captain Saku Koivu.
Both clubs went 1-for-6 on the power play.
Notes: Defenceman Francis Bouillon, who was outstanding for Montreal last season, is out until later November at the earliest as he recovers from knee surgery. Defenceman Mark Streit and tough guy Aaron Downey were healthy scratches … Defencemen Carlo Colaiacovo (head), Staffan Kronwall (ankle), Brenden Bell (foot) and forward Nik Antropov (leg) were out again for Toronto while winger Aleksander Suglobov and defencemen Jay Harrison were healthy scratches … The Leafs host the Florida Panthers on Monday night, while the Habs are off until Wednesday at Philadelphia, where they complete their three-game road trip to open the season.