MONTREAL – If the Canadiens were looking for something to spark them down the stretch, they just might have found it on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
Down 4-1 to the Ottawa Senators in the latter stages of the third period, Michel Therrien’s troops scored three goals in a span of 3:22 – including a game-tying buzzer-beater from David Desharnais with 0.4 seconds remaining in regulation time – to send what could only be described as one of more dramatic tilts in recent memory to overtime. Veteran rearguard Francis Bouillon capped the comeback with the game-winning tally just 86 seconds into the extra frame, beating goaltender Robin Lehner for his first goal of the season and lifting the Habs to a 5-4 win.
For a club looking to right the ship after coming up short in three consecutive outings, turning the tables on the Senators in the manner that they did was a clear indication to the Canadiens bench boss that this group has no quit in them whatsoever – even when the odds are greatly stacked against them.
“When I’m behind the bench, I always believe that we still have a chance to win no matter what, no matter the situation. You’re looking for something special to give you a chance to win. It doesn’t happen every night. When we scored that second goal, we kept fighting and fighting. We got 19 shots in the third period and made the comeback,” offered Therrien, referencing Lars Eller’s marker at the 16:38 mark of the third period that cut the Senators’ lead in half at 4-2, before Brian Gionta brought the Habs to within a goal at 17:56. “It shows a lot about the character of our players. They never give up. That’s the number one thing for me, and we found a way to win.”
In the aftermath of a victory reminiscent of the Canadiens’ epic come-from-behind 6-5 shootout victory over the New York Rangers on Feb. 19, 2008, P.K. Subban was quick to point out that the Habs’ unwillingness to deviate from their plan of attack when all seemed to be lost was what ultimately propelled them to their 36th win of the year.
“We knew going into the third period that we had an opportunity to get back in the game. I think that when you look at the first period, we had such a good period. We had power plays, and it just didn’t go in for us. We were getting discouraged,” admitted Subban, citing the Canadiens’ inability to light the lamp more than once during an opening frame that saw them outshoot the Senators by a 17-4 margin. “We knew that if we stuck to our game plan, we’d at least have a chance to win the game. If we stuck to the game plan and threw pucks at the net, good things could happen. We rallied, but we did that through our structure. We put the puck to the net and good things happened.”
Case in point was Desharnais’ dramatic equalizer, a power play goal that brought Habs fans to their collective feet. The 27-year-old centerman, who recorded his 11th multi-point game of the year, understands just how critical Saturday night’s victory can be in the long run.
“Before P.K. passed it to me, I knew there wasn’t much time left. When he gave it to me, I knew I had to react quickly. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a shot that quickly in my life,” confided Desharnais, who converted a tape-to-tape feed from Subban in the slot, besting a defenseless Lehner with a perfect wrister upstairs as the green light came on behind the Swedish netminder to signal the end of the frame. “Without a doubt, it’s one of the craziest comebacks I’ve ever experienced. Sometimes, you don’t really have to look at the way it got done. It was incredible. We have to follow up on it. We had luck on our side. Now, we have to build on it.”
Bouillon, who took part in the classic 2008 tilt as a member of the bleu-blanc-rouge, shared similar sentiments after notching the 31st goal of his NHL career. It’s one the 38-year-old won’t soon forget.
“It’s a big win for us. That’s the way I see it,” stressed Bouillon, who logged 19:22 of ice time against the Senators alongside Subban. “I don’t score goals very often. It’s probably one of the most important goals I’ve ever scored. A hockey game is never over as long as the final 20 minutes hasn’t expired. We’re really happy. It’s a great win.”
One that Canadiens players and coaches alike hope will bring good fortune going forward.
“What I’m hoping for is that big games like that could change a season,” underlined Therrien, whose squad will battle the Sabres on Sunday night in Buffalo minus starter Carey Price who will remain in Montreal to rest. “The guys never gave up. It’s often those types of wins that can be turning points during the year.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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