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Montembeault makes 46 saves, Canadiens hold off Rangers for shootout win

Montreal Canadiens New York Rangers Sam Montembeault, Alexis Lafreniere - The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — Sam Montembeault wasn’t about to be fooled twice.

With the Montreal Canadiens up a goal in the shootout, New York Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad attempted a one-handed deke only for a sprawling Montembeault to reach back and swat the puck away with his paddle as the home crowd erupted.

The Canadiens goalie stopped one more shooter to cap a season-high 45-save outing and seal a 4-3 victory over the Rangers on an electric Saturday night at Bell Centre.

"I try not to think too much when guys are coming down on me in the shootout," Montembeault said. "But (Zibanejad) did the same move on me last year — and scored.

"I made a nice save this time and I'm really happy."

Cole Caufield scored the shootout winner for the Canadiens after the Rangers erased a 3-0 Montreal lead in regulation to force overtime.

New York couldn’t solve Montembeault a fourth time — be it in regulation, overtime or the shootout — despite peppering him with shots all night.

“(Montembeault) was big all the way through it,” Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette said. “He played a solid game, 50 shots on net, probably over 30 scoring chances. He was good in regulation, good in overtime, and made a heck of a save in the shootout on Mika.”

Brendan Gallagher, Sean Monahan and Joel Armia scored in regulation for Montreal (17-17-5).

Vincent Trocheck and Panarin had a goal and an assist each, while Adam Fox also scored for New York (26-10-2). Jonathan Quick made 28 saves.

Montembeault set the tone early with several big saves during New York’s league-best power play midway through the first period to keep the high-flying Rangers — who dominated the shots 14-7 in the opening frame — off the board early.

“He’s playing like a No. 1,” head coach Martin St. Louis said of Montembeault, who has split the load with Jake Allen and Cayden Primeau this season.

Gallagher then picked the top right corner to open the scoring at 11:37 for his first goal in 25 games.

Monahan doubled Montreal’s lead 1:09 into the second and Armia beat Quick between the legs 1:30 later to make it 3-0 off nine Canadiens shots before the Rangers started to claw back.

New York got on the board at 10:28 with a Trocheck tip off a point shot.

Trocheck then pulled off a nifty set play by tipping the puck between Mitchell Stephens’ legs during an offensive zone draw and setting up Panarin, who buried his 25th of the campaign to make it 3-2 at 14:29.

“That was my second faceoff against (Mitchell) in seven seconds or something like that,” Trocheck said. “First one I try to win it back hard, broke my stick, then it was — sometimes there’s a little mental warfare in the dot.”

Fox made it 3-3 at 9:30 of the third period with a point shot through traffic moments after Canadiens' forwards Caufield and Armia missed the net on golden scoring opportunities from the slot.

Jake Evans and Mike Matheson added to Montreal’s chances in the ensuing minutes with shots that hit the post.

From there, Montembeault shut the door.

Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere had a Grade A chance to end the game in overtime off a feed from Zibanejad, but Montembeault turned his shot away.

The Canadiens netminder stood tall again on a tricky “change-up” shot from Zibanejad and an ensuing slap shot from Jacob Trouba with the clock ticking down on the extra period.

"It was a change-up,” Montembeault said. “I played catcher growing up so that probably came in handy."

Montembeault let out a big cheer after turning Lafreniere away in the shootout to secure the win, and the Bell Centre crowd responded even louder after a night of relentless action.

"Every night here is special, but there's some nights that stand out a little bit more,” Gallagher said. “Saturday night when the Rangers are in town, it was a good hockey game, there were chances both ways, both teams were making plays, it was physical. And Monty really stepped up and made some massive saves."


Canadiens: Visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.

Rangers: Host the Vancouver Canucks on Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2024.