After a bouncing puck slowed him and prevented an early breakaway for Dale Weise, he dropped it back to a trailing Manny Malhotra. Malhotra fired a shot blocker side on Jonathan Bernier, scoring his first goal as member of the Montreal Canadiens.
Image credit: HockeyStats.ca
The third member of the fourth line, Michael Bournival, drew a tripping penalty behind the Leafs' net later in the period. A line change with the call pending brought Tomas Plekanec onto the ice, and Andrei Markov found him with a pass. Plekanec extended the lead with his 19th goal of the season on the resulting rush.
With a two-goal advantage versus one of the bottom teams in the Eastern Conference, the game was then — at times literally — handed over to Carey Price.
Three times in the game, Canadiens defencemen sent the puck back to Price, relieving the neutral zone pressure and using their goaltender to reset the breakout. Whether it was a new coaching tactic that had been put forward, or Carey Price recently told the team that he could help them out in that way, it had definitely been discussed beforehand.
Price's usual routine of casually stopping opposition chances remained intact, stopping all the shots he faced as his team's shot count was doubled by the Leafs (22-11) in the first 40 minutes.
Montreal didn't believe that two goals would suffice to hang on in the final period, so they ramped the effort back up to begin the third period, with Desharnais scoring just over a minute after the game resumed. Brendan Gallagher contacted Bernier with the puck in the crease on the goal, but rule 69.6 allows for incidental contact with the goaltender in loose puck situations, and when contact is caused by a defending player (or three as the case may have been).
But the Leafs didn't score a goal on any of the 30 shots they got through to the net, giving Carey Price his sixth shutout of the season and boosting his league-leading numbers even further. A desperate effort by Toronto to break his shutout bid by pulling their goaltender with several minutes remaining in the third resulted in Desharnais' second goal of the period and a final score of 4-0.
Sergei Gonchar returned to the lineup and replaced Nathan Beaulieu as Tom Gilbert's partner from the final quarter of the second period on. That may have just been the coaching staff taking advantage of a chance to get Gonchar some extra playing time with the game in hand. It could also have been out of necessity to break up the Gonchar-Greg Pateryn pair that struggled in the first half of the game.
We should know the answer to that question post-trade deadline on Monday night, when the Canadiens will begin their four-game Pacific Division road trip against the San Jose Sha-arks.