By Heather Engel, The Sports Xchange
MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens have scored most of their goals this season in the third period, and it continued Tuesday night.
Montreal scored three times in the final frame to skate away with a 4-1 win over the Dallas Stars at Bell Centre.
Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher, Artturi Lehkonen and Alexander Radulov scored for the Canadiens (43-24-9), who opened up a four-point cushion atop the Atlantic Division with the Ottawa Senators’ loss.
Curtis McKenzie scored for Dallas, which saw its four-game point streak snapped.
Carey Price stopped 27 shots for the Canadiens. Kari Lehtonen made 32 saves for the Stars (31-34-11), who are now playing for pride after being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs one night earlier.
“We were ready to go tonight,” Dallas captain Jamie Benn said. “Personally, I was excited to play this one and I’m sure some of these guys were, too. They outcompeted us tonight.”
The Stars held the edge early, recording the first six shots on goal before Montreal notched its first.
Their fourth opened the scoring at 1:47 of the first period. Canadiens center Andrew Shaw tried to poke Nathan Beaulieu’s clearing attempt out of the zone, but the puck landed in front of McKenzie, whose shot from the slot hit the glass behind the net before the Dallas winger picked up the rebound at the side of the net and poked it in.
Montreal finally recorded its first shot of the night five minutes in and started to find its legs shortly thereafter. The home side dominated the rest of the frame, outshooting Dallas 14-7 in the period but unable to get anything by Lehtonen.
“Obviously, we were behind, but it felt like we were playing pretty well, so there’s no panic,” Gallagher said. “We’ve come back enough this year to have that confidence we were going to be able to do it again. Guys step up, guys are difference-makers, and certainly a lot of guys did that tonight and it was a good result.”
Pacioretty snapped a six-game scoreless streak to tie the game at 15:49 of the second period. After Radulov drew four Stars players to him, the puck bounced out to Phillip Danault, who fed Pacioretty, and the Canadiens’ captain tossed a backhander from the side of the net that trickled past Lehtonen.
“They got some momentum at the end of the first, in the last 10 minutes,” Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said. “In the second period, I thought both teams had some good opportunities. I thought the start of the third period, we had five or six great opportunities to turn the score in our direction.
“The opportunities were there,” he continued. “Both teams had pockets of momentum inside the game and, at the end, when they got their goal, it was their first in the period.”
Gallagher gave Montreal its first lead of the night at 3:21 of the third period when he stopped after coming into the zone with speed before sniping a shot upstairs, short side on the Dallas netminder.
Lehkonen put the Canadiens ahead by a pair at 13:02 when he took an Andrei Markov pass and fired from outside the right circle.
With the assist, Markov moved into a tie with Guy Lapointe for second all-time in career points among Habs defensemen, with 572, and earned a standing ovation from the crowd when it was announced over the public address system.
“That’s great,” the 38-year-old blue-liner said of the ovation. “I always knew we had the best fans in the world, so that was nice. I enjoyed it.
“It’s a big honor to be (so high on the list),” he added. “I’m proud to be there. I’ve worked hard for that. But right now, the team is more important. We didn’t have a good start; but, after that, we played a good game and got a big win.”
Radulov added to the pile with his first goal since Feb. 27, beating Lehtonen with just over two minutes remaining.