MONTREAL – Jonathan Bernier knew he was locked in from the moment he stepped onto the Bell Centre ice for warm-up.
In front of friends and family in Montreal, Bernier made a season-high 42 saves as the league-worst Detroit Red Wings downed the Canadiens 2-1 on Saturday night.
The Red Wings have won two games in a row since dropping 12 straight.
“From warm-up, the puck just seemed to be slower,” said Bernier, who improved to 7-9-2 on the season. “If you talk to a pitcher or a goalie, they’ll understand what I’m saying. For me, that’s what it is. When you’re feeling good, you’re just seeing things slower.
“Some games are harder, mentally, than others but tonight I felt pretty good.”
Montreal outshot Detroit 43-20 as Bernier stopped all but one chance.
The Laval, Quebec native denied Phillip Danault on a short-handed breakaway in the first. He made key saves on Brendan Gallagher and Nick Cousins, from the slot, in the second.
With Montreal piling on the pressure in the third, the Red Wings goalie made his best save of the night on rookie Nick Suzuki, with his glove, while sprawled out on the ice.
Bernier stopped 20 shots in the third period alone. It was the goaltender’s second victory against the Canadiens this season after a 4-2 triumph in Montreal’s home opener.
The 31-year-old was 47 seconds away from his first shutout of the season, but Tomas Tatar scored for Montreal on a one-timer from the blue line in the final minute. Carey Price was on the bench for the extra skater.
“Bernier played good,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “He made a lot of real good saves. He hung in there strong. We gave up some chances that I didn’t think we needed to, but when we did, he was real good.”
The Red Wings (9-22-3) entered the game with the league’s worst record and worst offense but took a 1-0 lead after 3:21 on Tyler Bertuzzi’s 11th of the season. Dylan Larkin orchestrated the goal by stealing the puck from Montreal defenseman Shea Weber behind the Canadiens net before feeding a wide-open Bertuzzi in the slot.
The game remained close until Mike Green doubled Detroit’s lead at 7:42 of the third on the power play. Green fooled Price on the blocker side with a one-timer from the point that went off the post and in. Riley Barber was in the penalty box for slashing.
The Canadiens (15-12-6) saw their three-game winning streak come to an end.
“We were soft on the puck for at least two periods,” coach Claude Julien said. “We should have been stronger on the puck. When you play that way, you’re playing with fire. We also took three bad penalties in the offensive zone.
“I don’t think we were on top of our game tonight.”
The Canadiens had their chances, though, before Green made it 2-0.
Jordan Weal fired a shot off the crossbar in the first period and Joel Armia’s soft backhander hit the post in the second.
“Even though we had more shots, they were probably the better team,” said Gallagher, who saw his five-game point streak come to an end. “A lot of our chances were from the outside. When you don’t get enough quality scoring chances, you can’t bury them.
“We probably got the result we deserved.”
NOTES: Wings leading goal scorer Anthony Mantha, who missed the previous eight games with a lower-body injury, was back in the lineup. Winger Andreas Athanasiou also returned from injury after missing two games. ... Gallagher and Danault’s five-game point streaks came to an end. … Price had allowed one goal in each of his previous two starts.
Detroit: Red Wings host Los Angeles on Sunday night.
Montreal: Canadiens play seven road games to end the calendar year, starting with Vancouver on Tuesday night.