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Published September 12, 2015
The Montreal Canadiens appeared to be in some trouble when goalie Carey Price was injured just after helping Canada win the gold medal at the Olympics.
Well, no worries.
Peter Budaj, Price's backup, has two wins and an overtime loss while starting three games in four nights since Price went down with a suspected groin injury. He was sharp again when he needed to be Saturday night as the Canadiens bounced back after blowing a third-period lead to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on Max Pacioretty's second goal of the game.
"He's been unbelievable," Pacioretty said of Budaj, who played for Slovakia at the Winter Games. "He's kept us in all three games he's played and he's made key saves at key moments. That's probably the most important thing a goalie can do.
"He's one of the hardest working goalies I've ever seen and it's good to see him get rewarded."
Alex Galchenyuk scored in the first period and P.K. Subban tied the game and forced OT with a power-play goal at 10:52 of the third for Montreal, which is 7-1-2 in its last 10 games.
James van Riemsdyk had two goals and Phil Kessel also scored for the Maple Leafs, who were coming off an overtime loss to the Islanders in New York in their first post-Olympic action Thursday night.
Budaj, now 4-1-0 against Toronto in his career, made 22 saves for the win after backstopping Montreal to a 6-5 OT decision Thursday in Pittsburgh and a 2-1 OT loss to Detroit on Wednesday.
He may face even tougher action if he continues to get the starts as the Canadiens leave Sunday on a four-game West Coast road trip. Price is listed as day to day and may be able to return during the trip.
Against the Leafs, Budaj and the Canadiens went up 2-0, but then saw Toronto roar back to take the lead, only for Subban to tie the game.
Along the way were unusual penalties, including two delay of game calls against the Leafs and one against Budaj.
Pacioretty's game-winner 3:28 into OT when he beat Jonathan Bernier with a high shot from close range that gave Andrei Markov his third assist of the night, came after Bernier slid well out of his net and was called for a delay as he smothered the puck with his glove.
Toronto had started overtime short-handed when Kessel was called for flipping the puck over the glass.
Leafs captain Dion Paneuf would not pin the loss on the officials.
"I'm not going to stand here and say the calls were right, wrong or indifferent," he said. "If you start complaining about that, that's an excuse. We showed a lot to come back."
It took the Leafs until 14:38 of the first period to get their first shot on goal, but they held Montreal to a 2-1 first-period lead.
Galchenyuk put a spin-around shot from the slot past Bernier 12:38 in, and Pacioretty scored on a backhander at 14:02.
After Joffrey Lupul hit a post, Kessel slipped a pass that van Riemsdyk deflected at the net, only to see it go in off Budaj at 17:34.
The third period saw van Riemsdyk get his second goal of the game on a short-handed breakaway at 5:28. Five of van Riemsdyk's 26 goals this season have come against Montreal.
Tyler Bozak sneaked a pass through traffic that sent Kessel in on a breakaway to beat Budaj at 7:43.
"Bozak made a spin-around, behind-the-back pass and it went through two skates, a couple of sticks and ends up right on Kessel's stick for a breakaway," Pacioretty said. "I was right there with Kessel, but I didn't see the puck coming until the last second."
Montreal coach Michel Therrien called a time out to settle his players and it seemed to work as Subban tied the game to force overtime.
"We got on our heels after (Toronto's) third goal, and we just needed to calm down," Therrien said. "I felt the bench was really down and I just wanted to say there was still a lot of hockey to be played."
The Canadiens and Leafs have split their four meetings this season, with their last regular-season game set for March 22 in Toronto.
NOTES: Montreal's Ryan White missed his second game with the flu, while Carey Price (lower body), Brandon Prust (upper body) and Michael Bournival (concussion) were also sidelined. Francis Bouillon was scratched. ... The Maple Leafs called up Peter Holland from the AHL and he centered the third line, bumping Nikolai Kulemin to the wing. Dave Bolland remains out with an ankle injury. Colton Orr, Trevor Smith and Paul Ranger didn't dress.