MONTREAL — Fifty shots is usually enough to win a hockey game.
Not when Craig Anderson is guarding the goal.
Anderson made 48 saves, many of them spectacular, and the Ottawa Senators staged a third-period comeback to beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 in the opening game of the first playoff series between the geographic rivals.
The Canadiens set team playoff records with 27 shots in the second period and 50 overall. Wasn’t enough: Anderson outplayed Montreal goalie Carey Price, who stopped 27 shots at the other end.
“What can you say? Andy’s our MVP,” said defenseman Marc Methot, who scored the winning goal. “He’s a machine back there. He just keeps going and going. We’re lucky to have him in the net.”
The Canadiens will try to solve Anderson and the Senators in Game 2 on Friday night at the Bell Centre. But the hosts will be without one of their hottest forwards, center Lars Eller, who was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher bleeding heavily from the face and taken to hospital. He suffered a concussion, as well as fractures to his face and teeth, after an open-ice hit from Ottawa defenseman Eric Gryba.
Eller had taken an ill-considered pass up the middle from Raphael Diaz when he was flattened by Gryba with a hit the NHL is likely to review for further discipline. Gryba was given a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct.
“It was a hockey play,” said Ottawa coach Paul MacLean. “Our guy hit him, but player 61 (Diaz) is the guy to blame.”
“I can’t comment,” was all Montreal coach Michel Therrien said about the hit.
Brendan Gallagher scored during the resulting power play to put Montreal up 2-1. But the Senators’ league-best penalty killers then shut the door during a full two-minute, two-man advantage.
Jakob Silfverberg tied it with a shot that sailed between Price’s legs from the right circle 3:27 into the third period. Mathot swept a shot from the point into the top corner to put Ottawa ahead less than two minutes later.
Guillaume Latendresse, a former Canadien who was booed by most of the 21,273 in the seats, sealed the win with a goal that went in off his body as he drove to the net with 6:05 remaining.
Erik Karlsson scored in the first period for Ottawa, while Rene Bourque got one early in the second for Montreal.
“You just have to give your team an opportunity to stay in the game and win,” said Anderson, who led NHL goaltenders with a 1.69 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage this season, but likely won’t get the Vezina Trophy because he missed 20 games with an ankle injury.
“Montreal played a really good second period. They had a lot of momentum. Our penalty kill did a good job of finding a way to keep them to one goal and give us a chance to get back in the game. We went from having no momentum in the second and taking momentum back in the third.”
Therrien was impressed.
“We played a good game and we deserved a better result,” he said. “I’m proud of our team. We had 50 shots. We went to the net. But the story of the game was Anderson. He was extraordinary.”
Anderson was sharp as the Senators weathered a fierce Canadiens push in the first 10 minutes before Karlsson put on a show for the opening goal at 17:25.
The 2012 Norris Trophy winner, who returned late in the regular season from an injury to his Achilles tendon, skated through the neutral zone and worked a give-and-go with Kyle Turris, redirecting the return pass along the ice between Price’s pads.
Montreal tied the game when Bourque came out from behind the net and beat Anderson with a backhander under the crossbar on Montreal’s 34th shot of the game.
After the Gryba hit and with Ottawa down a man, Gallagher banged in Tomas Plekanec’s pass to put Montreal in the lead.
Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said the quantity of shots was fine, and the quality was there some of the time, but his team needs to be sharper.
“We battled hard most of the game, but we’ve got to do a little better job of getting second and third opportunities,” Gionta said. “We had a lot of good chances, quality chances, but we’ve got to find a way to get those rebounds or a little more urgency in front of their net. He’s a good goalie and he’s going to make the first stop, for sure.”
Gryba’s hit came after Montreal’s P.K. Subban flattened Chris Neil with an open ice hit, but the Ottawa enforcer wasn’t injured on the play.