When Bob Gainey talked to the Canadiens after they had been outplayed through two periods by the Edmonton Oilers, Montreal captain Saku Koivu and his teammates responded.
The Canadiens roared out with 16 shots in the third period, Koivu scored the tying goal and the winner in overtime, and the Canadiens beat the Oilers 4-3 Tuesday night.
Gainey, the general manager, went behind the bench after firing Guy Carbonneau on Monday to try to shake the Canadiens out of a stretch of mediocrity that had lasted more than six weeks.
“When a team is not as confident as it should be, especially with what happened (the coaching change), just getting that trust back in each other is what we’re looking for,” said Koivu. “The way he talked to us after the second period, he was not about panicking.”
Alex Tanguay and Glen Metropolit also scored for Montreal (36-24-7), which won its second game in a row and sixth in its last eight.
Andrew Cogliano, Sheldon Souray and Sam Gagner scored in the second period where Edmonton outshot Montreal 17-2.
But Koivu got a disputed goal to tie it at 15:25 of the third period, then deflected Mathieu Schneider’s point shot in 1:40 into overtime after Patrick O’Sullivan was sent off for breaking Andrei Markov’s stick with a slash. It was the Montreal captain’s 65th career power play goal, tying Larry Robinson for 10th all-time among the Canadiens.
The Oilers (32-27-7) ended a four-game road trip at 1-1-2. They managed to salvage a point for the OT loss, which keeps them in playoff position in the Western Conference.
They also saw veteran defenceman Souray leave the game with a lower body injury late in the second period. Coach Craig MacTavish said the injury does not appear to be serious and that he will be evaluated on Wednesday.
“We just have to continue to get points and we’ll be fine,” Oilers forward Shawn Horcoff said. “We have to think positive.
“They came out hard with their coaching change, but I thought we did a good job in the first period controlling their attack and we did a good job in the second. In the third, I think we sat back to much.”
New assistant coach Don Lever watched the first two periods from the pressbox, then went down behind the bench with Gainey for the third, which may also have helped the home team.
“The team just wasn’t in snych with each other in the second period,” said Gainey. “It was really disconcerting.
“It made the players hesitate and hesitation in hockey is a death warrant. We concentrated on our line changes in the third so they got into the play at the right time, so they were in position to receive passes.”
He added that in the second period “we had enough bonfires burning we’d have needed the fire department to put them all out.”
Gainey saw his troops outskated in the early going, but they found their attack and scored the first goal as Schneider’s point shot went off Steve Staios’ skate to Tanguay in the slot. Dwayne Roloson had no chance on Tanguay’s shot and it was 1-0 Montreal 8:12 into the game. For Tanguay, who missed two months with a shoulder injury, it was a first goal since Dec. 20.
Then Edmonton, which has struggled in second periods this season, fired the first 12 shots of the middle frame and scored twice.
Cogliano made a deft move that caused defenceman Josh Gorges to fall and snapped a quick, high shot past Carey Price from the right side at 10:21. Then Souray’s point shot went in off Tomas Plekanec’s leg at 14:36.
That moved some among the Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 to start chanting “Car-bo, Car-bo”, for the fired coach.
Montreal’s first shot of the period was by Mathieu Dandenault and he followed up to get the puck to Metropolit, who slipped it inside the post for his first goal in six games with Montreal since he was claimed off waivers from Philadelphia.
A mad scramble in the crease after Price let the puck slip between his pads and lie on the goal-line gave Gagner his 10th of the season at 18:32.
Montreal turned the tables in the third and had a 13-4 shot advantage when Andrei Kostitsyn’s pass went off a stick and deflected off both Koivu and Roloson’s mask into the net. The tying goal that stood up under video review at 15:25.
“It hit my chest and I don’t know if it hit my glove after that,” said Koivu.
The Oilers had a chance when Tanguay was sent off for tripping with 2:10 left in regulation time, but without point-man Souray, Edmonton didn’t manage a shot on goal.
It is the second time in three seasons Gainey has taken over after firing a coach. The last time, after Claude Julien was sacked, the Canadiens won the next game 6-2 over San Jose on Jan, 14, 2006.
The Oilers begin a three-game homestand starting Thursday against Atlanta. Montreal plays host to the New York Islanders on Thursday.
Notes – As expected, Oilers winger Dustin Penner was a healthy scratch for the first time since he sat out games Nov. 15 and Nov. 17. That put Robert Nilsson back in the line-up. J.F. Jacques and Steve MacIntyre also didn’t dress. . .Max Pacioretty and Patrice Brisebois didn’t play for Montreal. Brisebois needs one more game for 1,000 in his career. . . Roloson extended his club record to 22 straight starts in goal. The previous record of 20 was shared by Grant Fuhr and Bill Ranford.. Before the game, the Canadian Mint unveiled a one dollar coin celebrating the Canadiens 100th anniversary.