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Back in a big way

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – The Minnesota Wild might not have been all too familiar with Jiri Sekac entering Saturday night’s tilt at the Bell Centre, but it’s safe to say that they are now.

In his second game back after spending seven games watching from the press box as a healthy scratch, the 22-year-old left-winger registered a goal and added an assist in the Canadiens’ 4-1 win over Mike Yeo’s contingent in La Belle Province. It marked the first multi-point game of Sekac’s young NHL career, and it was also the first time Michel Therrien’s troops had scored more than three goals in a game since the team’s home opener back on October 16th.

“I don’t think it can get any better right now. It’s an amazing feeling to do it in front of those fans. I think when we scored the second goal, we got on their back and that’s what got us going,” offered Sekac, who collected the secondary helper on Lars Eller’s game-winning tally with 50 seconds remaining in the second period that served to break a 1-1 tie. “I’m trying to get used to the NHL, game in and game out. Hopefully, it will only go up from here and not the other way around.”

That’s exactly how Sekac’s linemates see things shaping up for the Czech forward, who skated alongside both Eller and Brandon Prust on Saturday night as the Canadiens collected their second consecutive win, and their 10th victory of the season.

“I’d say the same thing about him that I said before the season started. I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people. He’s got skill. He’s a smart player and he competes hard,” praised Eller, who also recorded a goal and added an assist while logging 15:02 of ice time. “When you do those two things, good things are going to happen. I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more from him.”

The Canadiens bench boss liked what the former KHL standout showed in his eighth outing of the year, too. Therrien was pleased to see Sekac display the vigour and vitality that made plenty of people take notice of what the Habs’ No. 26 offered up during the preseason.

“He’s skating well and he’s making the right decisions with the puck,” explained Therrien. “Sometimes, taking a step back isn’t a bad thing. It was a demanding training camp for him. Earlier this season, I saw him as a player with less energy. Now, he has his energy back. He’s quick and he’s having success right now.”

Ultimately, however, it was a successful night for the Canadiens’ third line as a whole, as Sekac, Prust and Eller combined to register two goals and six points against one of the stingiest defensive teams in the league. Entering Saturday night’s action, the Wild had surrendered the least amount of shots per game, but the Habs’ third line gave Minnesota all they could handle, accounting for 10 of Montreal’s 31 total shots on goaltender Darcy Kuemper.

“In the first period, we were just trying to get a feel for each other. But, heading into the second, we talked about how we just wanted to have fun and start skating again. We were able to do that. We went out and kind of stopped thinking so much. We just went out and played,” confided Prust, who got on the scoresheet for the first time since Oct. 18th, picking up two assists in the win. “We were all doing similar things. We were bringing some energy. We were skating well. With Larry and Jiri, if you get them the puck, they can make some plays. They’re pretty nifty and crafty out there.”

And, in Therrien’s eyes, they did exactly what they needed to do to give the Canadiens a boost on a night dedicated to one of the all-time greats in team history in Guy Lapointe.

“They were very good. They spent a lot of time in the offensive zone. They went to the net with power and they were compensated for it,” offered Therrien, whose squad also got goals from Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty. “You definitely need depth. You can’t only rely on one or two lines if you want to have long-term success. I was very satisfied with their performance.”

The goal now is to build on Saturday night’s win going forward as a group, and keep things rolling against the likes of the Winnipeg Jets, Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers to close out the current four-game home stand between now and next Saturday night.

“It was good to get some good bounces. We played well. We created our luck. We were feeling it, and that was good to have a game coming out going from the start,” concluded Prust. “There were just a lot of positive things. It was good for us, and we’ve just got to keep pushing.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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