MONTREAL - The Montreal Canadiens were shaking with excitement after the biggest regular season comeback in team history.
Captain Saku Koivu scored in a shootout as the Canadiens completed an improbable comeback from a five-goal deficit to defeat the New York Rangers 6-5 on a wild Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. "What a great effort, what a great feeling at the end," said defenceman Mike Komisarek. "My ears are still ringing from that crowd."
Koivu was the only shooter on either team to score in the shootout as Montreal (33-19-9) won a fourth game in a row and beat New York (30-24-8) for the first time in four meetings this season.
The win kept the Canadiens in a tie with Ottawa atop the NHL Eastern Conference with 75 points, although the Senators are listed first because they have more wins and a game in hand.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, it is the first time the Canadiens have ever erased a 5-0 deficit to win a game.
"And the Montreal Canadiens are (nearly) 100 years old and have had some great teams," noted coach Guy Carbonneau. "You have to give credit to the players.
"I think last year, we would have packed it in. But we've been like this since the start of the season. That's why we haven't had any long losing streaks. It's fun to come back. It's a big boost for our team, especially at this time of year."
Alex Kovalev and Mark Streit scored in the third period to tie the game and force overtime before a delirious sellout crowd announced at 21,273 - many of whom stuck it out even when Montreal was down by five. Michael Ryder scored twice in the second period to get the comeback started.
The Rangers had built their lead by the 5:03 mark of the second period as a pair of their veterans made history.
Jaromir Jagr joined the top 10 in all-time scorers with a four-assist game and Brendan Shanahan added to his legend with two goals.
Jagr now has 1,581 career points, two more than former Boston defence great Raymond Bourque, to sit 10th in career NHL points. Next up is Phil Esposito, who had 1,590 points.
Jagr was New York's last man in the shootout and was stopped by Cristobal Huet, and the Rangers captain ducked reporters after the game.
Shanahan's pair of goals gave him 20 for the season - his 19th straight season with at least 20. He is second in consecutive 20-goal campaigns, behind the 22 by Detroit icon Gordie Howe.
"It shows a level of consistency over a long period and a certain degree of luck in terms of health," he said. "It's company I'm extremely proud to be in."
Brandon Dubinsky, Sean Avery and Chris Drury, with his 20th, also scored for New York, which has points in four straight games but didn't feel like a winner after this one.
"It's not every day you blow a five-goal lead," Shanahan added. "But we got one point and we're not going to make any more of it than that."
The game was delayed about five minutes late in the second period when Komisarek lost his cool and began chasing down Rangers, taking consecutive penalties for roughing and high-sticking. After the second, fans angry at the officials pelted the ice with Go Habs Go signs wrapped in plastic that had been handed out at the door.
"I was just angry," Komisarek said. "Everyone was upset.
"But what a great team effort. What a battle."
A smaller number of hats were tossed onto the ice when fans thought Ryder had got a hat-trick at 6:52 of the third period, but the goal was later given to Streit, who also had two assists.
Jagr went into the game with no goals and three assists in his last 11 games, but picked up three assists in the first period alone as the Rangers chased starter Carey Price after 13:56.
Dubinsky was sent in on a rush down the right side and fired a wrist shot to the far corner on the off-wing 8:50 into the game. Only 14 seconds later, Avery banged Jagr's rebound into an open side.
At 13:36, Shanahan one-timed a pass from Jagr in from the top of the right circle and Huet came into the game for Montreal.
Dubinsky had a goal, an assist and a fight in the period, as he also tangled with the burly Komisarek.
A four-minute high-sticking penalty to Montreal's Chris Higgins led to two New York power-play goals, as Shanahan deflected a Paul Mara shot at 4:35, assisted by Jagr, and Drury beat Huet high to the glove side at 5:03.
But Ryder, who has three goals in the last two games, finished a 3-on-2 at 8:28 and then scored on a high shot from in close at 12:52.
The crowd erupted when Kovalev's bad-angle shot trickled through Henrik Lundqvist's pads 6:43 into the third. Only nine seconds later, Ryder was allowed to drift into the slot and fire a wrist shot that went in off Streit.
The noise was deafening when Kovalev was then allowed to move into open ice in the left circle to one-time an Andrei Kostitsyn pass past Lundqvist to tie the game on a power play with 4:22 left to play.
Notes - Forwards Bryan Smolinski and Tom Kostopoulos and defenceman Patrice Brisebois sat out as Montreal opted to make no lineup changes. . . Defenceman Marc Staal returned for New York after missing two games with a flu. Winger Petr Prucha missed a third game with a shoulder injury and forward Colton Orr was a healthy scratch.