Tomas+Plekanec+Montreal+Canadiens+v+Toronto+kOBX0R_TgtalThe Canadiens survived two Toronto comebacks to record a 4-3 win Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Tomas Plekanec scored the winning goal a second after a Canadiens power play had expired midway through the third period. Earlier in the period Nazem Kadri had tide the game on Toronto power play. The Canadiens took a 2-0 lead early in the game on goals by Max Pacioretty and Rene Bourque but Toronto battled back when Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak scored. Brian Gionta made it 3-2 for the Canadiens before the end of the period. A scoreless second period set up the third period. Shots on goal in the game were 36-36. The three stars named in Toronto were Gionta, Lupul and Tomas Plekanec.

Adding It Up –

Four Pointer – Toronto went into the game hoping to close the gap on the Canadiens to one point. They came out five points behind and, although they still hold down the first wildcard spot, they will have to pay more attention to the teams behind them, that those in front. Detroit is one point behind them in the final playoff spot and Columbus is just outside the playoff picture two points behind Toronto. Both have two game sin hand.

The Difference – You have to have goaltending. The Canadiens had it; Toronto didn’t. James Reimer put the Leafs in a 2-0 hole before the game was seven minutes old and despite coming back twice to tie the game, they never had the lead. He might be forgiven on Pacioretty‘s opening goal which was the end result of a brutal backchecking job by Phil Kessel but he simply blew Rene Bourque‘s goal that made it 2-0. Reimer settled down from there, but the hole was too deep.

Ears Ringing –   Three goalposts and saves on 33 of 36 Toronto shots.  Carey Price hasn’t been out of this world but  he’s been good enough to win three of his four starts since coming back from that injury and he was the first star in the one game he lost. . He’s not as sharp as he was going into the Olympics but he’s still very good.

Second Thoughts – The talk going into the game was Alex Galchenyuk moving to his natural centre ice position for the first time since November. Didn’t happen. He played the entire night with Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher and was on the ice and very much a factor in the sequence of plays that led to Plekanec’s game winning goal.

One More For The Clinic – They’ll be calling it a “lower body” injury but Lars Eller appeared to twist his knee while taking a faceoff against Toronto’s Dave Bolland with a minute left in the second period. We didn’t see him the rest of the game and we’re hearing the familiar “day to day” song from the coaching staff. Without Eller, Galchenyuk may yet get that illusive shot at centre sooner than later. Meanwhile, Michael Bournival will join the team in Boston after completing his three game conditioning stint in Hamilton Saturday night.

Picking Up The Slack – Without Eller, Tomas Plekanec played on two lines in the third period, taking his regular turn with Galchenyuk and Gallagher and then settling back to the checking line with Dale Weise and Travis Moen. As a result he played almost half the third period (8:13) and was on the ice alogn with Weise and Moen for the entire nailbiting final 90 seconds of the game. Did I mention he also scored the winning goal?

Rene BourqueOut of the Doghouse -I think you could make a case for Rene Bourque as one of the game’s stars. After spending all five post Olympic games in the press box contemplating his lost season, Bourque had an excellent night. And the goal, assist and six shots on goal were only part of it. He supplied a consistent physical element on a line with Gionta and Briere that contributed far more than their 8-minutes of ice time would indicate.

Also Worth Mentioning – Not much out of Thomas Vanek in this game. Two shots on goal and one scoring chance. …..Toronto coach Dave Carlyle matched his top Bozak line against the Desharnais line for most of the game. They pretty much cancelled each other out. …..Games like this are Douglas Murray’s meat. He was plus-2; blocked five shots and recorded four hits. …..Mike Weaver, his defense partner, blocked another four. ….I think we’re only just beginning to appreciate the importance of the trade deadline additions of Weaver and Dale Weise to the Canadiens lineup. …. Also from the scoresheet; David Desharnais won six of nine faceoffs against Tyler Bozak, who’s normally one of the league’s best. …..P.K. Subban’s overall wasn’t particularly great but he played almost half the game (26:14). Brian Gionta and Bourque each had two-point nights.   ……And the odds of making the playoffs from sportsclubstats.com.  With the win the Canadiens are now up to a 97.3% chance of making the playoffs from 94.2.  Toronto, with a fourth loss in a row is down 18.4% to a 42.2% chance.

Moving On – The Canadiens moved on to Boston after the game. They meet the Bruins Monday night in the second of eight consecutive games against Atlantic Division opponents; six of them on the road. They’ll then come home to play Buffalo Tuesday night at the Bell Centre; their third game in four nights.