Tomas Plekanec got a jump start on 2007 with a pair goals against Tampa Bay.
MONTREAL - All too used to being a long way from home during the holidays, the Canadiens proved once again that there's nothing like returning in time to ring in the New Year in front of their fans.
Since the formation of the NHL in 1917-18, good things have happened whenever the Canadiens have christened the New Year on home ice. Following Tuesday night's 5-2 win over the Lightning, the Habs are now 17-4-4 when kicking off the New Year at home, outscoring the opposition 102-51 along the way. Of those 17 victories in front of their home crowd, the Canadiens have gone on to win the Stanley Cup later that spring eight times. The last time was in 1976-77 when Bob Gainey and Doug Jarvis were leading the charge.
While it's unlikely anyone in the Habs' current dressing room was aware of the historical significance of playing at home to kick off the New Year, starting 2007 on the right foot was no accident according to Mike Johnson.
"We didn't finish up 2006 the way we would've liked in those two games in Florida," recalled Johnson of the Canadiens losses to the Panthers and Lightning last Friday and Saturday. "It was good to see us bounce back with such a strong team effort. This is definitely the way we wanted to start the New Year."
That is especially true for Tomas Plekanec, who snapped a 14-game scoring drought in style by beating Johan Holmqvist for his fourth and fifth goals of the season.
"I made a lot of resolutions this year, but this wasn't one of them," admitted a smiling Plekanec after notching the second two-goal game of his young career. "I'm just going to keep giving all I have out there and I hope this will be an even better year for me."
After seeing his team put their late-year stumble behind them, head coach Guy Carbonneau is crossing his fingers that Plekanec's two-goal outburst is only a sign of things to come in 2007.
"Whenever you're in a slump it isn't easy, but Tomas has kept on working and he never said a word," said Carbonneau . "He took advantage of his chances tonight and who knows, a game like this is sometimes all it takes and this could just be the beginning of something."
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com
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