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Canadiens outlast Isles in OT slugfest

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders needed just two minutes and one second to deliver the first knockout punch Saturday night.

It took the Montreal Canadiens another 59 minutes and 50 seconds to deliver their own knockout punch, but the wait was worth it after left winter Max Pacioretty's overtime goal broke a scoreless tie and lifted the Canadiens to a 1-0 win over the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

"That was really hard-fought and really hard-earned," said Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who made 21 saves in recording his 21st career shutout. "We were fortunate to come out with that one."

The goal by Pacioretty ended a defensive duel defined by physical and sometimes downright violent play. The tone for the evening was set when Canadiens right winger -- and enforcer -- George Parros and Islanders left winger Eric Boulton exchanged shoves in the neutral zone.

Parros and Boulton immediately dropped the gloves and began sizing each other up as players and game officials cleared out around them. After a minute or so of tangling, Boulton dropped Parros with a punch to the face.

Parros, who suffered a concussion when he fell face-first onto the ice during a fight with Toronto right winger Colton Orr in the season opener Oct. 1, had to be helped up off the ice by teammates and eventually headed to the locker room under his own power. Parros didn't return, but Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said afterward that he would be fine.

"(Enforcer is) the hardest job in sports," Price said. "You never want to see that, whether it's your teammate or another guy on an opposing team. Hopefully he'll be OK and returning soon."

Tensions were further inflamed by a pair of scrums involving Canadiens center Lars Eller and Islanders center and captain John Tavares. In the second, Eller shoved Tavares to the ice during a multi-player battle for a loose puck in a corner of the Canadiens' zone. Tavares ended up being penalized for holding the stick.

Early in the third period, Eller leveled Tavares with a blow to the head behind the Islanders' net. While Tavares picked up his helmet, the rest of the Islanders on the ice -- led by right winger Kyle Okposo -- raced over in search of retaliation. Eller served two minutes for an illegal check to the head.

"You know what? Both teams really competed hard tonight," Therrien said. "It was a hard-checking game and they were physical and we were physical as well. Both goalies played well, they made some key saves at the right time, and we found a way to score the winning one in overtime."

The Islanders had the most serious threats in regulation -- especially in the third, when Price stopped breakaways by Tavares, Okposo and right winger Cal Clutterbuck.

The Canadiens began wresting away the momentum in the latter half of the third, when Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov deflected away a shot by center Tomas Plekanec and gloved a slap shot from defenseman Andrei Markov. With 1:43 left, Eller's shot ticked off the skate of Markov and into the goalmouth, where Nabokov smothered it.

Montreal controlled play in the overtime, when Pacioretty had a 1-on-1 shot turned back by Nabokov mere seconds before center David Desharnais picked up a loose puck behind the Islanders' net.

Desharnais skated around the net and passed to Pacioretty, who was hounded by Islanders defenseman Aaron Ness yet got his stick on the puck and snuck it past Nabokov 1:41 into the overtime to ignite a celebration by the Canadiens, who ended a two-game losing streak and earned their first 1-0 win in overtime or the shootout since Feb. 14.

"Both teams shut it down pretty well and both goalies played outstanding," Pacioretty said. "But a game like that, all it takes is one bounce. And that's what we got."

The bounces once again went against the Islanders (9-19-6), who fell to 3-1-1 this season in games in which they've allowed one goal. The Islanders have lost 12 of their last 13 (1-10-2) and are 3-14-3 in their last 20 games.

"Defensively, we did a lot of good things," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "Offensively, we had our chances and a couple odd-man rushes, couple 2-on-1s. We can't find the back of the net right now. I thought both teams played pretty structured tonight, but they got the one when they needed it."

Nabokov, who missed the previous 12 games with a groin injury, had 24 saves.

Center Ryan Strome, the Islanders' first-round pick in 2011, made his NHL debut and played on New York's top power-play line. Strome was the AHL's player of the week in his final two full weeks with Bridgeport.

NOTES: The scoreless tie through three periods was the first of the season for either team. ... With the first snowfall of the season blanketing Long Island, the announced attendance was 14,408. ... The Islanders scratched D Matt Carkner, C Casey Cizikas and RW Colin McDonald. Cizikas suffered a jaw injury Thursday in Phoenix while Carkner and McDonald were each healthy scratches. ... With C Ryan Strome making his NHL debut, six of the Islanders' seven first-round draft picks from 2006 through 2011 were on the ice: RW Kyle Okposo (2006), C Josh Bailey (2008), C John Tavares (2009), D Calvin de Haan (2009), C Brock Nelson (2010) and Strome. The 2007 first-rounder, RW Nino Niederreiter, was dealt to Minnesota for RW Cal Clutterbuck in July. ... The Canadiens had a pair of healthy scratches: D Francis Bouillon and C Ryan White. ... For the Canadiens, Saturday marked the front end of their ninth set of back-to-back games this season.
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