The Canadiens were provided with the game's best chance three minutes in when PK Subban stepped into a long-range bullet, but starter Nikolai Khabibulin kicked the puck aside with his right pad to preserve the 0-0 score.
An interference minor to Hall Gill at 4:46 put the Oilers' 18.5-percent power-play to work. With Taylor Hall and Corey Potter patrolling the point, the orange and blue peppered Carey Price with several high-quality chances, but were denied. With 14 seconds remaining in the chance, Sam Gagner picked up a tripping minor, turning the 5-on-4 tables at 6:32.
The Oilers improved on their 88-percent success rate on the PK, but were put right back to the disadvantage when a tripping minor to Cam Barker provided with the home side with another chance to score. The Habs came oh-so-close, cranking iron when Michael Cammalleri blasted Khabibulin's blocker-side post (losing his weapon in the process), but were unable to cash.
Up 4-2 in shots at 12:04, the Oilers went back to the power-play when Tomas Plekanec was assessed a tripping minor in the visitors' end. The Oilers added a pair of late-advantage attempts, but were stoned by Price.
The brisk-paced opening period came to a close with the Oilers up 6-4 in shots, but no goals were scored in either net.
2:04 into the period, the Canadiens almost orchestrated the icebreaker. Following an ill-advised neutral-zone turnover, Erik Cole broke in on a 2-on-1 with Cammalleri. Montreal's No. 20 connected the pass, sliding the puck toward the gaping cage, but Khabibulin came up with split-saving stop to keep the game knotted.
Moments later, the Oilers replied with a scoring chance of their own. With Lennart Petrell down low banging bodies, Ben Eager centred to a wide-open Anton Lander in the slot. The 20-year-old snapped the puck on Price, but right into the bread-basket as the game remained scoreless.
A hooking minor to Petrell at 4:11 put the Oilers down a man once more, but it didn't matter. Ryan Jones scooped a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated in alone, one-on-one vs. Price on a breakaway. No. 28 deked to his backhand, depositing the puck through the Canadiens 'tender to put the Oilers up 1-0.
The penalties continued to come at 7:53 when Hall was charged with hooking, sending the Oilers' 3-for-3 PK back onto the ice. The advantage's best chance, again, came at the Canadiens' expense. Ryan Smyth darted in on a breakaway, attempting a similar move to Jones, but was stopped as Price swatted the puck to the corner.
With 5:32 on the clock, the Oilers were charged with too many men, putting the home side back on the power-play in search of a goal. Another penalty to Theo Peckham put the Canadians on a quick, 12-second 5-on-3.
Once that passed, the one-man advantage continued for 1:48. Khabibulin's right pad continued to shine, as the 38-year-old veteran made a precision post-to-post save to quell the Canadiens' PP.
The Oilers were up 1-0 but trailed 17-10 on the shot clock with 40 minutes in the books.
Three minutes into the period, Khabibulin was forced to come up big once again. A goal-mouth scramble allowed Max Pacioretty and Brian Gionta to hack at three separate opportunities, but the Bulin Wall denied them all.
Moments later, Cole and Cammalleri choreographed another 2-on-1 chance, but Khabibulin made a sensational save to preserve his team's 1-0 edge.
With 11:45 remaining, Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth connected on the rush, but No. 94's one-time attempt struck the cross-bar, keeping the 1-0 score on the board.
As the period's 10-minute mark passed, Montreal held a commanding 23-11 lead in shots but were unable to register the 1-1 marker.
At 16:28, Tom Gilbert put the Oilers up by a pair. His long-range wrister pinballed in, using Josh Gorges' stick as a redirection point to elude Price's grasp, 22 seconds later, however, the Canadiens pulled within one. Max Pacioretty broke down the wing, sliding by Gilbert and placing a backhand shot blocker-side on Khabibulin to make it 2-1.
The Canadiens pulled Price with 1:03 to go, looking to cash the 2-2 goal. Within moments, mind you, Ryan Smyth carried the puck down the ice and scored into the empty net to secure a hard-fought 3-1 win in Montreal.