MONTREAL – Rem Pitlick scored his first career overtime goal at 2:14 to complete the comeback and give the Montreal Canadiens a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.
The 25-year-old wanted to share the credit with teammate Mike Hoffman who assisted the goal as Pitlick rushed along the boards before icing the game with a wrister.
“That was definitely a very fun one to be a part of. It was a great pass by Hoffman because he saw me coming with speed and he kind of was turning into a blind spot, if I remember correctly,” said Pitlick.
“It was really nice having that play and to have the building go off like that. Saturday night against Toronto, it’s pretty cool.”
Josh Anderson and Rafael Harvey-Pinard scored for Montreal (20-24-3) as the team recorded its 20th win of the NHL season.
With an injury list that keeps expanding, the Habs still managed to erase a two-goal deficit in the second period and complete the comeback thanks to recent AHL call-ups. Of the eight Canadiens players who recorded a goal or an assist, four (Pitlick, Harvey-Pinard, Alex Belzile and Michael Pezzetta) played at least one game with affiliate Laval Rocket this season.
“I tell the players that we’re building a train,” said Habs coach Martin St. Louis. “Some guys are going to come in and out of it and the guys that are in the train need to take care of it.”
St. Louis tipped his cap to Rocket coach Jean-Francois Houle and his staff for his work with player development this season.
“Every player we recalled helped us continue to keep the train going,” St. Louis said. “It takes a group in Laval to help the players so that when they come here, they bring something to the team and not just patch a hole.”
Playing in a seventh consecutive game, Samuel Montembeault bounced back after getting pulled in last Thursday’s loss to the Florida Panthers, making 36 saves and picking up the first star of the game. The 26-year-old from Becancour, Que., has recorded 36 saves or more in five of his last seven games.
“Obviously I got pulled last game so it’s great to see that (St. Louis) trusts me to bounce back and go back again tonight,” Montembeault said. “I’m a little tired right now but the day off (Sunday) is gonna be nice and we’ll get back to work on Monday.”
The Habs also sacrificed themselves for the netminder, blocking 23 shots.
Mark Giordano and Calle Jarnkrok scored for Toronto (28-11-8). Ilya Samsonov made 28 saves.
Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe gave Montreal “full marks” for the win in a Bell Centre that was “as loud an environment that we’ve played in all season long.”
“You can’t let up for even a second because this is a team, in this building especially, they’re gonna play hard,” Keefe said. Just last week, they won in New York (Rangers), they beat the Jets pretty handily, in here.
“It’s a team that if you give them life you give them a chance they’re gonna come and make it hard on you. They did that in the second, I thought we were good again in the third but we couldn’t get one by (Montembeault).”
Toronto had a strong start to the game with 15 shots in the opening frame. The Leafs scored first 53 seconds into the game when William Nylander sent a drop-back pass for Giordano in the slot who beat Montembeault under the blocker.
The Leafs took a two-goal lead thanks to a burst of speed from Mitch Marner. His shot was blocked but Conor Timmins recovered the loose puck and found a wide open Jarnkrok who tapped in his 10th of the campaign.
Montreal got back into the game with two goals in the second period. At 1:46 of the second period Nick Suzuki left the puck for Anderson who scored from the left faceoff circle.
Suzuki came inches away from tying the game with a lob from the crease but Auston Matthews cleared the puck clear from the goal line.
Harvey-Pinard scored his first goal of the season and finally levelled the score by hopping on a Samsonov rebound and finding the back of the net at 13:35 of the second period.
“I think the second period we kind of took our foot off the gas and opened the door for them to make it a one-goal game and then obviously tie it up,” Matthews said. “I thought that the second period was probably our downfall of the game. I think it’s a period that we’ve been much better in for the most part of the season so obviously that’s a little bit disappointing.”
With 2:07 left in regulation time, Nylander was called for high-sticking, giving Montreal a 4-on-3 power play for 1:01. Toronto successfully killed the penalty and the game went to overtime.
The Canadiens had yet another injury to announce before Saturday’s game. Forward Cole Caufield will have shoulder surgery and miss the remainder of the season.
Montreal recalled forward Alex Belzile from AHL affiliate Laval Rocket to fill Caufield’s roster spot. The winger recorded one assist in Saturday’s game.
The Canadiens host the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.
The Maple Leafs will head back to Toronto to play the New York Islanders Monday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2023.