About Last Night: Staal champions 3-2 comeback against the Oilers

Down 2-0 to the start the third, the Montreal Canadiens scored three unanswered goals to complete the comeback Monday against the Oilers.

Author of the article:

Erik Leijon  •  Special to Montreal Gazette

Eric Staal of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates his overtime goal against the Edmonton Oilers at the Bell Centre on April 5, 2021 in Montreal.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-2.
Eric Staal of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates his overtime goal against the Edmonton Oilers at the Bell Centre on April 5, 2021 in Montreal. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-2. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis /Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens finally won a game in 3-on-3 overtime this season. After going 0-9 in extra time to start the season, the Habs got the first monkey off their back when they beat the Vancouver Canucks in the shootout on March 20. Monday night at the Bell Centre, they finally scored a goal during three-on-three play, defeating the Edmonton Oilers 3-2. And it was new acquisition Eric Staal who made it happen in his Habs debut.

It was an eventful game prior to Staal’s precise wrister that beat Oilers goalie Mike Smith. Down 2-0 to start the third period, the Canadiens scored three unanswered goals to complete the comeback, and all without star forward Brendan Gallagher, who got hit in the hand by an Alexander Romanov slap shot. He has a fractured thumb and will be out multiple weeks.

The Gallagher injury came in a first period where the Canadiens outshot the Oilers 15-5, but couldn’t figure out 38-year-old Mike Smith, who shut out the Habs in their last matchup. With 21 seconds left in the first period, it was another Oiler with past success against the Canadiens, Devin Shore, who gave the Oilers a 1-0 advantage. In 13 career games against the Habs, Shore has 11 points.

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The second period had a reversal in shot totals, with the Oilers gaining a 14-7 advantage, yet the end result was the same: with 11 seconds to go in the period, Darnell Nurse fired a powerful slap shot past Carey Price to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead heading into the dressing room. Just before that, Price made one of his most acrobatic saves of the season, sliding over to his right and stacking the pads, even losing his helmet in the process, to stop Oiler forward Alex Chiasson. Price also appeared to be in discomfort following a collision with Oiler Josh Archibald, but stayed in the game. Afterward, coach Dominique Ducharme said he was getting checked out.

Down two goals and down a leader to injury, the Canadiens left the ice after 40 minutes with their shoulders slouched, but immediately hit the ice with renewed intensity to start the third. Josh Anderson, the best forward on the team until that point, completed a tic-tac-toe passing play with linemates Nick Suzuki and Corey Perry less than two minutes into the third. Smith’s shutout streak against Montreal ended at 139 minutes and 21 seconds. Less than four minutes later, Tomas Tatar fired a laser top shelf to tie the game. Paul Byron, one of Gallagher’s many understudies on the night, stole the puck from Nurse and found his new linemate in prime scoring real estate. Perry gave Habs fans a scare when he retreated to the dressing room in difficulty, but emerged a shift later, no worse for wear.

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After being held shotless by the Canadiens during their last meeting, Connor McDavid again struggled to find the net. He finally got a shot, his only one, in overtime. While normally a chance to show off his blazing speed on open ice, McDavid was effectively shadowed by Habs speedster Paul Byron throughout overtime. With under a minute to go in 3-on-3, Staal went wide to Smith’s left side at a decidedly slower pace than McDavid or Byron, but he beat Smith to his blocker side, scoring the game winner and his first in bleu-blanc-rouge. Some of other Staal fast facts on the night: he took the opening faceoff, played on the first powerplay unit, and he neutralized his first opportunity on the powerplay when he took a penalty of his own 12 seconds into the man-advantage.

When Gallagher left the game, you could feel the mood in the Liveblog sink. But Staal gave dedicated Habs fans who didn’t turn off their sets a storybook ending. The Habs will hope for more success this week when they face the Maple Leafs on Wednesday and the Jets on Thursday. Here are the three stars from the Liveblog:

3. “The Staals have inflicted lots of punishment on the Habs over the years. Nice to have one on our side for a change. Good luck tonight Eric and go Habs.” — Michael Paul 2. “I didn’t expect that kind of character win from them tonight. Good on them, for playing how they should, from the beginning of the 3rd. Very satisfying win.” — James Toth 1. “Carey Price kept us in it, and shut the door after second period, Staal with the overtime winner, couldn’t have scripted it better.” — Ryan Katz

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