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Canadiens netminder Antti Niemi shines in 3-2 OT win over Stars

Canadiens goaltender Antti Niemi makes a save as Dallas Stars’ Alexander Radulov watches the rebound during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Dallas on Monday, Dec. 31, 2018.

Michael Ainsworth / AP

DALLAS — Antti Niemi had the bounce-back game coach Claude Julien was looking for and Jeff Petry converted a saucer pass from Paul Byron in the first minute of overtime to give the Canadians a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Monday night at American Airlines Center.

Phillip Danault scored his second goal of the game at 9:17 of the third period to tie the game at 2-2. It was Danault’s seventh goal of the season and he has nine points (five goals and four assists) in his last five games.

Niemi, who was lit up for six goals in a disappointing 6-5 loss in Tampa on Saturday night, had a season-high 45 saves to give the Canadiens a chance to win.

The problem on this night was a lack of offence. The Canadiens, who had scored 14 goals in their previous three starts, had trouble beating Ben Bishop, whose career record against Montreal dropped to 12-5-3.

Danault opened the scoring at 16:35 of the first period when he went to the net and collected a pass from defenceman Brett Kulak, who was circling behind the net. Jordie Benn, who started his NHL career in Dallas, picked up the second assist on the goal and he has a goal and three assists in the last four games.

Niemi had 33 saves through two periods, but the Stars took a 2-1 lead. Dallas pulled even early in the second period when Radek Faksa went outside Petry and scored his seventh goal of the season.

The two goals Niemi gave up were the fewest he has allowed this season and he improved his record to 6-4-1.

Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, who both came under fire from Dallas CEO Jim Lites last week for their lack of production, combined to produce a power-play goal at 16:34. Jamie Benn’s older brother, Jordie, was sent off hooking and Seguin set up Jamie for the go-ahead goal. It was Benn’s 16th of the season.

The Canadiens had two power plays in the period, but were unable to score. Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s frustration continued as he hit a post in the second period. The rookie has hit three posts in the past three games.

This became a must-win game for the Canadiens because the New York Islanders defeated the St. Louis Blues earlier in the evening. With the win, the Canadiens remained one point ahead of the Islanders, but New York has the advantage going forward because they hold two games in hand.

The Canadiens played most of the game without Andrew Shaw. He suffered an upper-body injury in the first period. Tyler Pitlick was a game-time scratch. He went to the hospital after his wife went into labour.

The Canadiens stayed overnight in Dallas and flew home Tuesday. They will practise in Brossard on Wednesday and open a three-game homestand Thursday against Vancouver. P.K. Subban and the Nashville Predators are at the Bell Centre on Saturday.

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