By Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press on January 11, 2024.
MONTREAL – Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 33 shots, and the last-place San Jose Sharks snapped a 12-game losing streak by defeating the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
Luke Kunin, Fabian Zetterlund, Nikita Okhotiuk scored for San Jose (9-29-3), which won its first game since Dec. 12. The Sharks also opened the season on an 11-game winless skid.
Brendan Gallagher and Mike Matheson replied for Montreal (17-17-6) on the second night of a back-to-back. The Canadiens were lucky to leave Philadelphia with a point Wednesday after being heavily outplayed in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Flyers.
Sam Montembeault made 32 saves in his first start since turning away a season-high 45 on Saturday against the New York Rangers.
It was the second time the two teams met this season after Montreal won a 3-2 shootout decision in San Jose on Nov. 24.
With the Canadiens down 3-1 entering the third, jeers – and some sarcastic “Ole, Ole, Ole” chants – rained down from the home crowd during the period.
Captain Nick Suzuki had a chance to bring Montreal within one on a short-handed breakaway midway through the frame, but Blackwood shut the door on a back-and-forth move.
The ice was tilted toward the Sharks’ end in the final 10 minutes. The Canadiens pulled Montembeault with five minutes left to bring on an extra attacker.
After a minute-and-a-half of sustained pressure, Matheson scored with a point shot at 16:26 to make it a one-goal game and bring the Bell Centre to life.
Blackwood, however, shut the door for the final frantic few minutes as Montreal pressed with chance after chance with the goalie pulled to secure the win.
The Sharks spent most of the first period in their own zone, but led 2-1 after 20 minutes.
Kunin opened the scoring at 5:19 after a critical turnover by Canadiens defenceman Jayden Struble. With his back turned in the corner, Struble blindly sent the puck in front of Montreal’s net and onto Kunin’s tape for an easy goal.
Josh Anderson went on a breakaway after a stretch pass from Matheson with six minutes left, but went wide with a backhand deke.
Tomas Hertl set up Zetterlund in front with a slick feed from behind the net to make it 2-0 at 17:25.
But Montreal responded 21 seconds later as Brendan Gallagher’s one-timer from the slot off a pass from Matheson beat Blackwood. Matheson earned his 200th career point on the play.
The Sharks took control of play in the second and outshot the Canadiens 17-9 in the period.
Okhotiuk restored the two-goal lead by sneaking back door and finishing off a feed from Mikael Granlund for the defenceman’s first of the season and San Jose hung on in the third.
Montreal winger Rafael Harvey-Pinard returned to the lineup after missing 24 games with a lower-body injury. The 25-year-old, who last played Nov. 14 against Calgary, has four assists in 14 games this season. He played on the Canadiens’ third line Thursday while Emil Heineman drew out of the lineup.
Sharks forward Mike Hoffman played his first game at Bell Centre since Montreal sent him to San Jose last summer in a three-team trade that helped the Pittsburgh Penguins land star defenceman Erik Karlsson.
Hoffman produced 29 goals and 40 assists in 134 games over two seasons with the Canadiens after signing a three-year, US$13.5-million contract with the club as a free agent in 2021.
The 34-year-old has eight goals and five assists in 41 games this season.
The Canadiens acquired forward Filip Cederqvist from the Buffalo Sabres for future considerations earlier Thursday. Cederqvist, 23, has one goal and three assists in 14 American Hockey League games this season. The 2019 fifth-round draft pick will report to AHL affiliate Laval.
Canadiens: Host the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
Sharks: Visit the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 11, 2024.