A tough season for David Desharnais finally produced a bright spot.
Desharnais scored in the shootout — the only time he has found the net all season — and Peter Budaj stopped all three shots he faced in the tiebreaker to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.
"You know what? He played well," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said of Desharnais, the fifth-year pro who has one assist in 17 games this season. "He started on the fourth line and I saw his intensity in practice this week.
"I'm really glad for him and his confidence that he ended up scoring the goal in the shootout."
Desharnais had been contributing so little that he was a healthy scratch in two of the previous four games. But he had a good percentage in shootouts last season, and that was enough for Therrien to send him out.
Desharnais took his turn after the first three shooters were stopped. He came in and netted a hard forehand on Curtis McElhinney's stick side.
"He had a quick release there," McElhinney said. "Shootouts are always difficult ways to end games."
Budaj, giving starter Carey Price a night off before the Canadiens face the New York Rangers at home on Saturday night, had earlier stopped Mark Letestu and Anisimov. He blocked Ryan Johansen's forehand attempt to clinch the win.
Budaj, who had 23 saves, said Desharnais finally got repaid for his hard work.
"David works so hard. Nobody sees that," Budaj said. "It has been tough for him, but he stayed the course like a true professional and kept working hard. The coach put him there, and he was ready. His hard work paid off. He made a big, big goal for us."
Montreal's regulation goals were scored by Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller.
R.J. Umberger and Artem Anisimov had first-period goals for the Blue Jackets. McElhinney made 38 saves.
The game pitted teams that have been struggling. The Canadiens had lost five of six (1-3-2), and the Blue Jackets have now dropped eight of nine (1-6-2) — although they have earned at least a point in their last four games.
"We're doing a lot of good things. I think that's maybe the frustrating part," forward Nick Foligno said. "There just seems to be that lull, that little moment in the game where we give them a chance to come back or we let them hang around. We had a 2-0 game. You've got to find a way to hold that lead."
The Blue Jackets took that two-goal lead in the first period, one on a gift, but then helped give one back in the final seconds.
The first came at 15:33 when Umberger was at the short boards on the left wing and fired a shot that Budaj missed because of a screen in front to make it 1-0.
Columbus continued to pressure, and David Savard's slap shot from the top of the right circle clanged off the post. Seconds later, Anisimov took a backhand swing at a loose puck that appeared to ramp off a Canadiens stick. The puck sailed high, and with Jared Boll on his back in the crease while bumping into Budaj, the puck lazily bounced into the net.
After the Blue Jackets' Jack Johnson and Montreal's Brandon Prust went off with concurrent penalties, the Canadiens scored a goofy goal.
Columbus defenceman Fedor Tyutin whiffed twice on a bouncing puck at the blue line, and Galchenyuk swooped in to beat McElhinney with a forehand with just 8 seconds left in the period.
The Canadiens tied it on the power play at 7:34 of the second. They had gotten several prime opportunities on their first attempt with a man advantage. This time Daniel Briere had a clear shot from the high slot, but McElhinney blocked it. The rebound squirted off to the right doorstep where Eller jammed it in under McElhinney's right arm for his seventh goal.
Budaj never let the Blue Jackets regain the lead.
"There's a disconnect somewhere," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "We've talked about it a lot. In the first period we execute, do the right things, have some success, and then we abandon it."