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A remarkable start

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

PITTSBURGH – The Canadiens are off to their best start to a season in almost four decades, and they made it all happen on road ice.

By running their record to 4-0-0 on Tuesday night with a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center, Michel Therrien’s troops became just the fourth team in franchise history – and the first since 1977-78 – to begin the year with four victories in its first four outings. It also happened in 1955-56, and again in 1970-71. Every single time, the Canadiens went on to eventually win the Stanley Cup.

“I’m so impressed with that win because that’s such a hard game to win, I think more so than people realize. On the road for four games, the Penguins obviously haven’t had success yet and they’ve got a great team. This was their home opener. They came out with a lot of energy. I couldn’t be more impressed with the way we handled that,” offered captain Max Pacioretty, who scored his third and fourth goals of the year in the win, including the Canadiens’ second power play goal of the year. “We’re having fun. I think everyone’s contributing, and that’s what makes this the most fun right now. We have everybody on board, and everyone has played a huge role. If we have that right mindset and everyone feels good about themselves, the better we’re going to play game after game.”

The fact that the Canadiens had contributions out of players up and down the lineup all road trip long has been a major storyline early on this year. That – along with remarkable goaltending – really is what afforded the CH the opportunity to return home with another six points in the bank after the season-opening win in Toronto on October 7.

“Since I’ve been here, it’s been a lot like that with everyone contributing. I think that will the key even more so this year. That’s the biggest thing about our team. Different guys will be difference-makers every night. That’s what it takes to win games,” shared David Desharnais, who picked up the primary assist on Tomas Fleischmann’s game-winning goal early in the third period – which also just happened to be his first tally in a Canadiens uniform. “Our record says a lot about our character. We could’ve been satisfied with three wins, but we pushed ourselves again tonight. It wasn’t easy, but we still managed to pick up the win.”

And, they’ve been doing it time and again away from the friendly confines of home. Needless to say, that made the victories even more gratifying.

“It’s not easy to win in this league, especially on the road. We’re doing some good things right now. I thought we just battled. We dug deep in Pittsburgh. It’s a long road trip. We weren’t necessarily full of energy, but guys dug down as deep as they could and we found a way to come away with two points. It obviously feels good right now,” explained Brendan Gallagher, who collected his third assist of the season on Tuesday night, feeding Pacioretty for the game’s opening goal. “When the schedule first came out, we were pretty happy about starting on the road and getting to spend some time together to build as a team. It’s not easy to win in any building. We
played in some tough ones on this trip, so we’re happy with the result.”

As is head coach Michel Therrien, who his pleased to see his team get off to a strong start to the 2015-16 campaign in a highly-competitive Eastern Conference.

“Had I bet on us collecting all eight points from the four games to start the year, I would have a lot of money right now. We couldn’t be happier about the way things played out,” cracked Therrien, referencing his squad’s early-season success. “I really like the character of this team. Starting the season with four road games can be a double-edged sword. We were happy to go on the road, but to finish up in Pittsburgh against one of the league’s powerhouse teams – and win – really shows the character of our team.”

The challenge now will obviously be to keep that momentum going, which is easier said than done with games against the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and the St. Louis Blues on the horizon over the next seven days. Fortunately, they’ll all be played in front of the Bell Centre faithful, which will surely give Therrien’s contingent any energy boost it might need on any given night. Letting up right about now simply isn’t an option.

“This was a very tough game to win, but going home now after a 4-0 start, it’s going to be even harder. We can’t feel too great about ourselves. We haven’t played perfectly, and we know there’s tons of room for improvement,” concluded Pacioretty. “Sometimes, you see teams get a little bit relaxed after a good road trip, so we’ve got to make sure that we come out with that grit and that intensity right from puck drop and keep things rolling.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com

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Game Highlights: Canadiens @ Penguins
Postgame: Oct. 13
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