MONTREAL – The Vancouver Canucks showed why they are one of the hottest teams in the NHL, and the Montreal Canadiens demonstrated why they are among the coldest.
Cody Hodgson scored in regulation time and again in a shootout as the streaking Canucks opened a five-game road trip with a comeback 4-3 victory over the Canadiens on Thursday night.
Hodgson was the only scorer in the shootout after the Canucks (17-10-1) erased a 3-0 deficit to post their eighth win in nine games.
“They were all over us but we showed some character, battled back hard and (goaltender Roberto Luongo) made some big saves,” said Canucks forward Mason Raymond.
Rookie defencemen Frederic St-Denis and Raphael Diaz and forward Erik Cole spotted Montreal a 3-0 lead by the 2:20 mark of the second period, but Vancouver stormed back with a short-handed goal by Raymond, a 4-on-4 score by Hodgson and Sami on a power play.
“It’s disappointing, but it was simple—special teams,’ said Montreal coach Jacques Martin, whose club only one win in its last seven games. “I think 5-on-5 we played well.”
The Canadiens (11-11-7) lost in a shootout for the third time in their last four games and for a second game in a row. Montreal is 1-5 in shootouts this season. They have scored on only four of 20 shots, while Carey Price has allowed nine goals on 17 shootout shots.
“I’m going to take the heat for this,” said Price. “It comes down to goaltending. I’ve got to figure out a way to get the wins.”
Luongo, a Montreal native, ended up the winner despite a poor start that saw him give up goals on three of his first nine shots. At least two of them were soft, but he settled down with some good saves in the final two periods.
Price, a B.C. native, was the loser even though he made some exceptional saves, particularly early on. The Canucks held a 31-23 shot advantage.
“After the third goal I just wanted to shut the door and hopefully the boys would bail me out and they did,” said Luongo. “It was nice to be able to make three saves and finally get a win in the shootout.
“We got that big short-handed goal in the second period and that kind of got us going. We’ve been a really good third period team all year long and we knew that we could come back. And we got a huge goal early in the third and it really gave us the momentum.”
Montreal captain Brian Gionta left in the third period with an undisclosed injury and did not return. Martin said he would be evaluated by doctors on Friday.
Salo tied the game with 4:40 left in regulation time on a blast from the point after Alexandre Burrows, perhaps with the help of some embellishment, drew a cross-checking penalty on Lars Eller.
It was a big night for Raymond, who played only his third game since returning from a fractured vertebra suffered during the Stanley Cup final.
He was put on the second line with centre Ryan Kesler and responded with his first goal of the season and by making the play that led to Hodgson’s goal.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “I’m continuing to get better.
“Unfortunately it takes games and more games to get really where you want to feel but I’m very pleased with where I’m at considering where I was.”
Montreal got it started with two near identical goals as St-Denis and Diaz both threw wrist shots from the point through traffic to score in the opening period.
At the other end of the ice, Price stood on his head as Montreal killed a Vancouver two-man advantage for 1:26, facing eight shots in all over the two penalties.
Only 2:20 into the second period, Cole blocked a Salo pass at the point, skated down the right wing and scored on a soft wrist shot.
Raymond got the first one back shorthanded as he took Jannik Hansen’s pass and beat Price with a wrist shot at 8:37. It was the fifth short-handed goal allowed this season by Montreal, and the first the Canucks have scored.
“I was just trying to curl and drag and shoot and get off the ice, but I was able to get a good shot off and pop one in,” Raymond said.
Raymond helped close the gap and he skated into the Montreal zone with the teams each down a man. His shot was blocked by the defence, but Hodgson followed with a goal ona wrist shot from the right circle 4:24 into the third.
Blowing leads and letting points slip away has been a recurring theme for the Canadiens this season, who have a rash on injuries and are using four rookies, three of them on defence.
“At least we’re picking up points, but singles aren’t helping us right now,” said Price.
Notes: Perry Pearn, fired as an assistant coach, was back at the Bell Centre in his new job as a pro scout for Montreal. … The Canadiens scratched struggled defenceman Yannick Weber to dress St-Denis. … Tomas Plekanec played his 499th game for Montreal, one short of a tie for 60th place in team history with John Ferguson. … Chris Higgins missed a second game with a foot injury for Vancouver, while David Booth missed his first since a knee-check that will keep him out 4-to-6 weeks. Callup Bill Sweatt was used sparingly in his first NHL game.