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In the Habs Room: Sam Montembeault staking claim to be No. 1 goalie

The Gazette logo The Gazette 2023-01-22 Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazette
Canadiens' Rem Pitlick celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre on Saturday, on Jan. 21, 2023, in Montreal. © Provided by The Gazette Canadiens' Rem Pitlick celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre on Saturday, on Jan. 21, 2023, in Montreal.
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Sam Montembeault said he was looking forward to well-deserved day off Sunday.

Montembeault has been a workhorse in goal, making seven consecutive starts and staking a claim to the No. 1 job in the absence of Jake Allen, who is out with an upper-body injury. He turned in another yeoman performance Saturday when he made 36 saves to lead the Canadiens to a 3-2 overtime victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre.

Montembeault, who has won four of those seven starts, said he appreciated the confidence coach Martin St. Louis has shown in him.

“I got pulled the last games and he trusted me to go back in,” Montembeault said. “I’m a little tired right now, but there’s a day off tomorrow and we’ll get back to work on Monday. I’m pretty good at managing my workload. Yesterday, I didn’t skate with the team and worked on a few things with (goaltender coach Eric Raymond).”

Montembeault said he didn’t feel good in the first period, but he was flawless after that and he made a game-saving stop on David Kampf midway through the third period.

“I have to be careful, I almost screwed it up,” Montembeault said. “The puck was coming (behind the net) and I thought I had time to play it, but it slowed down. They got the pick first, but I came back and stretched for the save.”

Josh Anderson said St. Louis asked for a collective effort from his team after losing Cole Caufield.

“It’s going to be hard to replace the energy with Cole; he brings it no matter what day it is,” said Anderson, who started the Montreal comeback with his 14th goal. “But we have to keep the train going and everybody has to step up. If everybody’s on board and can bring that compete level, that energy, good things are going to happen.” 

The Canadiens had four players who started the new year in Laval and two  them — Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and Rem Pitlick — scored goals, with Pitlick netting the overtime winner.

“It was a day full of emotion and nerves and excitement, and all of those things,” said Pitlick, who took Caufield’s spot on the No. 1 line. “We had some tough moments as a team, we had some good moments as a team. There were so many ups and downs and it was good to finish on top.

“It felt good to be on the top line,” Pitlick added. “Marty’s always talking about touches and it’s good to have extra touches.”

St. Louis praised the work of Laval coach Jean-François Houle in having the call-ups ready to play in the NHL. He noted there “wasn’t a chair” for Pitlick earlier in the season when the Canadiens had a surplus of players, but he was sitting pretty Saturday.

The Canadiens dominated the  Leafs physically, outhitting them 32-14 and blocking 23 shots to 14 for the Leafs. Anderson and Michael

Pezzetta each registered six hits, while David Savard blocked six shots.

The Canadiens went 0-for-4 on the power play with five shots and killed off both Toronto power plays. Montreal struggled in the faceoff circle, winning only 37 per cent of the draws. Christian Dvorak was 8 for 14; Kirby Dach had a good night, winning three of six faceoffs, but Nick Suzuki won only six of 19.

The Canadiens are home for their next two games on Tuesday against Boston and Thursday against the Red Wings. They finish the week Saturday in Ottawa.



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