EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Josh Anderson had two goals and the Montreal Canadiens withstood a late push by Edmonton, beating the Oilers 4-3 Wednesday night to split a two-game series.
“We can’t wait around any longer, these games are way too important,” Anderson said. “Tonight was the right direction (with) us playing hard and the right way.
“We’ve just got to continue to build on that.”
Tyler Toffoli and Artturi Lehkonen also scored for Montreal (20-15-9). Jake Allen made 22 saves as the Canadiens picked up just their third win in nine games. Jeff Petry and Tomas Tatar each had two assists.
Montreal moved eight points clear of the Calgary Flames for the North Division’s fourth and final playoff spot.
Connor McDavid had a goal and two assists, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi added goals for Edmonton (27-16-2). Mike Smith made 27 saves.
The Oilers, who beat Montreal 4-1 on Monday and had won eight straight at home, missed a chance to pass the Winnipeg Jets for second in the standings.
“That was a tight-checking game on both sides,” Nugent-Hopkins said after missing the last four contests with an upper-body injury. “They capitalized on a couple opportunities.
“We were just a little short at the end.”
The Canadiens were minus No. 1 goalie Carey Price (concussion) after he got bumped by Edmonton’s Alex Chiasson in Monday’s first period. The former Hart and Vezina trophy winner, who will be out at least a week, had just returned to Montreal’s lineup Saturday following a six-game absence with a lower-body injury.
McDavid tied the game 1-1 with his 25th goal of the season, taking a pass from Caleb Jones off a Montreal turnover before moving in alone and beating Allen high at 3:09 of the second period.
“Good luck stopping that guy coming down the wing — 230 pounds of muscle and no fat, and a guy with a hell of a shot,” Allen said. “He’s a game-changer when he gets his feet going and is playing hard and heavy.”
But Anderson responded just 11 seconds later when he bullied his way past Adam Larsson and snapped his 16th goal of the season, beating Smith on the short side.
The Oilers’ power play went to work later in the period, but continued to struggle against the Canadiens, who had killed 22 of 24 penalties against Edmonton coming into Wednesday.
The Canadiens’ struggling power play finally connected at 8:10 of the third when Toffoli jumped on a Josh Archibald turnover that went off Smith. He scored his 22nd, snapping a 3-for-35 run with the man advantage.
Anderson then put things out of reach with 4:47 remaining when he backhanded his 17th goal of the season on a sequence that stood after a coach’s challenge for goalie interference on Smith.
Nugent-Hopkins scored his 13th on a power play with 2:12 left and Smith on the bench for an extra attacker. Puljujarvi scored another late, but Montreal held on.
“It was a hard-fought battle,” Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said. “But we came up a little short.”
NOTES: Edmonton and Montreal will meet May 10 and 12 at the Bell Centre to wrap up their regular-season series. … Acquired from the Detroit Red Wings prior to the NHL trade deadline and having served the mandatory seven-day quarantine, defenseman Jon Merrill made his debut for Montreal. … Oilers blue-liner Dmitry Kulikov worked out with his new team for the first time Wednesday morning since coming over in a deal with the New Jersey Devils. It’s expected he’ll be available against Winnipeg next week.
Canadiens: At Calgary on Friday, Saturday and Monday nights.
Oilers: At Winnipeg on Monday and Wednesday nights.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports