MONTREAL — The last-place Montreal Canadiens blew a three-goal lead, but they showed enough composure to hold on for their third victory of the season.
The Canadiens won a nail biter 5-4 against the New York Rangers on Saturday after allowing the visitors to claw their way back into the game.
Montreal led 3-0 after the first period but the Rangers made it 4-4 in the third before Phillip Danault scored the game winner.
"Losing was not an option," said Canadiens head coach Claude Julien. "We have to change our approach. We started well but we let them get back in the game. We need to take responsibility for that. But at the end of the day we found a way to win."
Danault scored twice and added two assists for Montreal — the first four-point game of his career. The Habs (3-7-1) also got goals from Paul Byron, Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty.
Carey Price made 22 saves in the final game of Montreal's three-game homestand. Price improved to 16-6-1 all-time against the Rangers in the regular season, winning 12 of his last 14 games.
Down 4-2 to start the third period, New York (3-7-2) got a goal back from Mika Zibanejad as he capitalized on poor defensive coverage from Tomas Plekanec.
Brady Skjei completed the comeback when his shot from the point went off Plekanec's backside and in at 7:00 of the third.
Danault broke the deadlock at 9:37, his second goal of the game, when he went five-hole on Ondrej Pavelec.
"Obviously a good game from everybody," said Danault. "A lot of emotion in the building. We responded well from last game. It was one of our best games. We were hungry. We worked for our bounces. We worked hard, more than them."
With a delayed penalty coming to the Rangers, Montreal went up 1-0 in the first period when Jonathan Drouin found Byron alone in the slot at 7:51 for his third of the season.
Galchenyuk doubled the home side's lead at 11:09. Brendan Gallagher fed Galchenyuk with a cross-crease pass for his third power-play marker of the year.
Danault scored two minutes later, his first of the game, as the Habs went up 3-0. Danault cashed in a rebound after Andrew Shaw fired the puck on Pavelec on a 2-on-1. Montreal outshot New York 19-2 in the first period and 43-26 in the game.
"Look at that shot margin," said Gallagher. "When we compete and win battles and when we hound teams like that, we know we're a tough team to play against. We did a good job of that. Obviously we're not happy we let them back in it but we were able to stick with it."
The Rangers came out with more energy in the second period as Pavel Buchnevich scored at 2:21 from the point on the power play. Price never saw the puck with the big-bodied Rick Nash in the way.
Midway through the period, Nash scored on a wraparound with Price out of position.
Pacioretty's goal at 14:38 of the second period restored Montreal's two-goal lead. The Canadiens captain put the puck between Pavelec's pads after the Rangers goalie made the initial stop on Shea Weber.
"You can't win in the NHL by playing 40 minutes," said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. "Our first period, there was no compete. Montreal came out hard and we put ourselves behind the hole. You can't win that way."
Pavelec, making his second start for New York after leading his team to victory on Thursday, stopped 38-of-43 shots in defeat. Pavelec is now winless in Montreal in his last eight appearances.
Notes: The Canadiens have at least 30 shots on net in every game this year. … It was New York's third away game of the season. … Montreal lost 2-0 to the Rangers earlier this season.