MONTREAL – There will be no final game nail-biter for the Montreal Canadiens this season.
P.K. Subban’s power-play goal 1:19 into overtime and some outstanding play from goaltender Carey Price helped the Canadiens clinch a playoff spot Tuesday with a 2-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Sixth-place Montreal (43-30-7) has 93 points with two games left. Although the Canadiens can still be caught on points by ninth-place Carolina, they hold the edge in the first tie-breaker—non-shootout wins.
A year ago, the Habs needed the point from an overtime loss to Toronto in the final game of the campaign to clinch a spot before making it all the way to the conference final.
“It’s good we don’t have to wait till the last game, but it’s not over,” said Michael Cammalleri, who scored Montreal’s goal in regulation.
Patrick Kane replied for the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks (42-28-9), who outshot Montreal 43-25, including 20-9 in a desperate third period.
Chicago, which rushes home to face St. Louis on Wednesday night, got a point for the overtime loss and moved into a tie with idle Anaheim for seventh in the Western Conference with 93 points, two more than Calgary and Dallas.
Subban drew an iffy tripping call on Chicago captain Jonathan Toews in overtime before one-timing a perfect feed from Andrei Kostisyn into the top corner of the Blackhawks’ net to send the Bell Centre into a frenzy.
“That was all the opportunity we needed and we had to finish it there,” said Subban. “I’m just glad we got the job done. It’s a great feeling to score in OT in this building, but we did it as a team.”
To celebrate the goal, Subban and Price rushed toward each other and jumped into each other at centre ice like awkward, over-padded football players.
“I was just trying to make good contact—I think I got him pretty good,” Price joked about the exchange.
Toews, whose team was coming off a 2-0 loss at home to Tampa Bay on Sunday, wasn’t smiling.
“It’s more frustrating than heartbreaking,” he said. “We worked so hard out there, then you try lifting a guy’s stick and it ends up costing you the game.
“In overtime it’s 4-on-3, it’s a big difference. I was obviously not happy with that. It’s frustrating when you’re the guy that takes a penalty like that, but what can you do? It’s a crappy break.”
Price set a Canadiens record for appearances by a goaltender in one season with his 71st. He also proved he is far from fatigued from all that work, winning a goaltending duel with Corey Crawford, a native of nearby Chateauguay, Que., making his first start at the Bell Centre.
Habs coach Jacques Martin gave no information, but Price expects to be rested for one or both of Montreal’s final two regular season games Thursday in Ottawa or Saturday in Toronto.
The Canadiens won most of the battles early and got the first goal 6:55 into the second period when Kostisyn set up Cammalleri in the slot for a shot that went in off defenceman Brent Seabrook.
Kane tied it with a beautiful goal at 10:05. Even though he was last man back, Kane slipped a backhand pass to himself to beat Mathieu Darche at the Montreal blue-line, then picked the top corner through traffic with a wrist shot.
Both goalies shone during a third-period Montreal power play, as first Crawford darted out his glove to rob Cammalleri in alone, then Price got his glove on Ryan Johnson’s shot on a short-handed rush.
Price made a game-saver moments later during a Blackhawks power play as he reached back to swipe a bouncing puck before it reached the goal-line.
“That’s why Pricey’s our best player,” said Subban, whose goal was his 14th of the season, one fewer than defence great Guy Lapointe had as a rookie in 1970-71.
Blackhawks forward Troy Brouwer left the game with an apparent right shoulder injury at 6:53 of the third period when he missed Lars Eller with a body check and tripped over the Montreal centre’s skate. He eventually left the ice under his own power but did not return.
Coach Joel Quenneville called it an upper body injury and said he would be re-evaluated on Wednesday.
Notes: Chicago’s last win in Montreal was Dec. 3, 2001. … Price passed the 70 appearances of Gerry McNeil (1950-51 and 1951-52) and Jacques Plante (1961-62). … Jeff Halpern missed a second game for Montreal with an undisclosed injury while Yannick Weber and Alexandre Picard were scratched. … Chicago’s Patrick Sharp missed a seventh game and Dave Bolland sat out an 11th with injuries.