Maple Leafs fall to Canadiens in OT

Leafs defenceman Carl Gunnarsson keeps an eye on Daniel Briere of the Canadiens in Montreal on...

Leafs defenceman Carl Gunnarsson keeps an eye on Daniel Briere of the Canadiens in Montreal on Saturday night. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images/AFP)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:41 PM ET

MONTREAL - This time, James van Riemsdyk and P.K. Subban didn’t need any crest-tugging antics or hot-dog gestures to add spice to an already bubbling Canadiens-Maple Leafs rivalry.

This time, they let their play do their talking for them.

When the Canadiens and Leafs previously played back on Jan. 18 at the Air Canada Centre, van Riemsdyk and his teammates were irked when Subban taunted their bench after scoring a first-period goal.

Two periods later, van Riemsdyk responded by mocking Subban’s theatrics after the Leafs left winger scored the game-winner with about five minutes left in the third period to give the Leafs a 5-3 victory.

On Saturday night, they met again. And both players turned in electrifying performances.

Thanks to a pair of goals by JVR — including one of the best individual efforts you’ll ever see — the Leafs took a 3-2 lead in the third period only to see Subban force the game to overtime with a power-play marker.

Unfortunately for Randy Carlyle’s team, local boy Jonathan Bernier — a native of nearby Laval — was given a delay of game minor with 1:46 remaining in the extra frame after he covered up a puck outside the crease.

Sure enough, Max Pacioretty made the Leafs pay, scoring the winner with just 1:32 in overtime, giving the Canadiens a 4-3 victory on a wild Saturday night at the Bell Centre. Subban, by the way, assisted on the goal.

The victory moved the Canadiens three points ahead of Toronto in the Atlantic Division standings.

The opening 10 minutes produced some of the most eye-glazing hockey you’ll ever see. For two teams that claimed to be playing with urgency heading down the stretch of the regular season, they showed little of it, combining for just three shots — all by the Habs — in that span.

Montreal finally opened the scoring at 12:38 of the first period as Alexander Galchenyuk’s wrister glanced off Morgan Rielly and beat Jonathan Bernier, who had no chance on the play.

Just over a minute later, the Habs struck again, this time courtesy of their leading scorer, Max Pacioretty. The Habs forward netted his 28th of the season with a backhand that eluded Bernier’s glove, much to the glee of the home crowd.

What must have been most alarming to coach Randy Carlyle was the fact that, through the first 14:02 of the game, the Canadiens had scored more goals (2) than his Leafs had registered shots (zero).

Indeed, the Leafs looked as sluggish as their legions of fans who had wobbled back to their hotels at 4 a.m. after spending the previous evening guzzling their favourite beverages on nearby Crescent Street.

Enter JVR.

Just when it appeared the Leafs might be run out of the building, van Riemsdyk scored his 25th of the season just 2:26 before the first intermission to narrow the Montreal lead to 2-1. Kessel and Dion Phaneuf assisted on the play.

The Leafs then struck for two goals in 135 seconds early in the third period to suddenly go up 3-2, courtesy of JVR and Kessel.

Van Riemsdyk’s shorthanded goal, in particular, was a highlight reel beauty that will be shown over and over again. Picking up a loose puck in the neutral zone, JVR fought off a defender before deking Peter Budaj to knot the game at 2-2.

With the several thousand Leaf fans in the building suddenly coming to life, Kessel gave them more to cheer about just over two minutes later when he blazed in on the right side and snapped the puck past a helpless Budaj.

But any momentum the visitors had accrued was quickly lost when Tim Gleason headed to the penalty box soon after Kessel’s go-ahead marker. Sure enough, the Canadiens made Toronto pay for Gleason’s faux pas, with Subban drilling a shot that found it’s way through Bernier’s pads to knot the game 3-3.

Cue Pacioretty’s heroics.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

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