MONTREAL - Though the Canadiens came away with two points in the standings and a big win in front of the Bell Centre faithful, Sunday night's victory came at a high cost.
After leaving Brooklyn with a big 5-3 road victory, the Canadiens found themselves down a goal heading into the second period against the Islanders.
Cue the Habs special teams units - who breathed life back into the team - resulting in back-to-back goals from the power play and penalty kill units. After the Islanders stormed back to tie the game in the final frame, the Canadiens responded with another two power play goals to seal the 4-2 victory.
Having been held scoreless with the man advantage in their previous four games, the Canadiens broke out of their 0-14 power play slump with three goals on just five attempts. “The special teams were extra special tonight. Goals on the power play and one on the penalty kill too,” noted Tomas Fleischmann, who scored his first shorthanded goal in a Canadiens uniform and just the second in his eleven-year NHL career. “I focus more on the team’s success than my own, and I think it’s reflected in the way I play. When the team wins I’m happy.”
A revitalized power play aside, Sunday night’s win over the Islanders came at a heavy price.
With the game deadlocked at 1-1 in the second period, Canadiens’ fearless forward Brendan Gallagher blocked a hard shot by defenseman Johnny Boychuk, taking the brunt of the force with his hand. “The way he got hurt is just typical of his character and the way he plays the game. He took a bomb off Boychuk’s stick, which is one of the hardest shots in the league,” explained captain Max Pacioretty, who was on the ice when his line-mate and assistant captain was struck in the hand by the blue line blast. “And he stayed out there, which says a lot about his character. Obviously we don’t want him to miss any time because he is such a valuable piece of this team.”
Inspired by Gallagher’s courageous act the Canadiens rallied around their fallen comrade as Tomas Fleischmann picked the top corner on a short-handed rush to put the Canadiens ahead 2-1.
The important goal came just minutes after Gallagher’s injury, as the Habs fought valiantly to win the game for their injured teammate. "Every game we know we have a chance to get hurt. This is what happens with contact sports. We obviously hate to see a guy go down like that,” added P.K. Subban, who collected two assists Sunday night to pass Jean-Guy Talbot for 10th place on the Canadiens all-time scoring list amongst defensemen. “When you see a guy like Gally go down like that, we just wanted to win this one for him."
Coach Michel Therrien confirmed that Gallagher will require surgery to fix the two broken fingers he suffered on his left hand as a result of blocking the shot. A tough pill to swallow, but as captain Pacioretty noted, the Canadiens have the necessary depth to handle the situation.
“It might be hard to understand but I think our success is due to the atmosphere in here. Our mind set is to come in everyday and do the right things to win. The guys who have sat out, you expect to be moping, but with us, we genuinely haven’t heard or seen that from our group this year,” expressed Pacioretty, who sealed the victory for the Canadiens with an empty-net goal, his eleventh of the season. “Everyone is on the same page and everyone ensures that they are good to go when their number is called. It might sound cheesy but it is 100% genuine, and I think that is the biggest reason we have so much depth.”
Although the Canadiens now face the tough task of replacing a key component both on and off the ice, coach Therrien had some encouraging news in his post-game press conference.
"All teams in the NHL have to deal with injuries. We are not different from the rest,” stressed Therrien, who has had to deal with his fair share of injuries during his eleven-year NHL coaching career. “Some guys are about to return. It’s possible that Devante Smith-Pelly will be available for Wednesday's game, and Alexei Emelin is also progressing well.”
It is always tough to see a teammate fall during battle, nonetheless the always resilient Canadiens have but one choice; soldier on.
Jared Ostroff is a writer for canadiens.com
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