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Blue line snipers

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROOKLYN – Sometimes the best offense is good defense.

Heading into Friday’s game, the Canadiens had gotten just five goals from the blue line through the first 20 games of the campaign. They got three from the back end in Game 21 alone. After spotting their opponents three-goal leads in their previous three starts, the Habs exploded out of the gates in Brooklyn, buoyed by goals from the point.

“We knew since we played last night that they were going to come out and try to set the pace, but we wanted to cancel whatever they were going to throw at us out by getting pucks in deep and trying to play a simple, hard game early,” explained Jeff Petry, who opened the scoring for the visitors in the first period before potting the eventual game winner in the second. “It feels good. There were plenty of chances in previous games and I wasn’t getting the bounces. It seemed like we got a couple of bounces tonight.”

Leading all Habs rearguards for a fifth time this season with 24:15 of ice time, Petry enjoyed the first multi-goal night of his career to date, but he wasn’t the only defenseman getting in on the offense in Brooklyn. Finishing his evening with a goal, an assist, a plus-3 differential, and a team-leading four takeaways, Petry’s blue line partner had an impressive outing of his own.

“It’s always nice as the season goes on to get better and build and chip in here and there,” said Nathan Beaulieu, who experienced his second-heaviest workload of the season with 20: 24 of action in the 5-3 win over the Islanders. “It was fun tonight and it was fun playing when you’re contributing to the team winning. We were amped up for this one. We had a nice meeting this morning and we talked about how it’s unacceptable the way we’ve been starting. We weren’t happy with it at all and we knew we had to come out strong tonight.”

The first time the Canadiens have gotten more than one goal from a defenseman in a single game this season, the Petry-Beaulieu duo accounted for 60 percent of the team’s total offense against the Isles. Thriving alongside his new defense partner with three points in four games since sliding in alongside Petry on the blue line, Beaulieu is looking forward to seeing the pair continue along their current trajectory as the season progresses.

“I thought tonight was our best game. He’s such a good skater and he’s so easy to read off of. He’s fun to play with,” shared the 22-year-old defenseman, who set a new career-high with his second goal of the campaign. “He’s got the same instincts as me. We play a similar role and he’s a guy I look up to.”

The third oldest rearguard on the roster despite being just 27 years old, Petry has happily taken on the role of blue line big brother in his sixth NHL season. Having signed a six-year deal to stay with the Habs long term over the summer, the Ann Arbor, MI native will have plenty of time to help groom the team’s superstars-in-the-making as he enters the prime of his career.

“He’s been through a lot and he’s been around the league and for a young guy, he’s played a lot of games. He’s definitely someone whose footsteps I’m trying to follow,” shared Beaulieu. “He’s creative and we’ve just seen the start of him. He’s a young guy and sometimes people don’t realize that. It’s a lot of fun playing with him and hopefully we can continue the same way.”

- Shauna Denis a writer for canadiens.com

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