MONTREAL – The Canadiens got things done the hard way on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
After going up 2-0 on the Detroit Red Wings through 20 minutes of play on goals by Max Pacioretty and Paul Byron, Michel Therrien’s troops surrendered three straight power play goals during a wild second period to find themselves down a goal heading into the final frame.
That’s when they mustered the collective strength to turn the tables on a Red Wings squad in the midst of a heated playoff race with just a handful of games remaining on the schedule.
Sven Andrighetto’s seventh goal of the season tied things up, before Pacioretty’s second tally of the night – and 27th of the year – with 8:42 remaining in regulation time ultimately proved to be the game-winner and secured a 4-3 triumph.
“That was a dogfight. You go up two and you have to kill off a certain amount of penalties there. They’ve got so much skill over there, throwing pucks at the net. They’re so dangerous and so fast, and they come with a lot of speed. We battled hard,” said goaltender Mike Condon, who made 39 saves on Tuesday night, including 23 stops in the third period alone to keep Detroit off the scoresheet when it mattered most. “I thought Jimmy Howard played really well, and it was a really tough game.”
Howard was forced into action after starter Petr Mrazek surrendered the opening two goals of the game on just seven shots against. The line of Pacioretty, Byron and Alex Galchenyuk gave both Red Wings netminders fits, accounting for three of the Canadiens’ four goals on the night, including the decisive marker.
“They’re elite talents in this league. It’s a real opportunity to play with those two guys. You go to the net, you work hard, and you get rewarded with a goal,” praised Byron, who scored his second goal against the Red Wings in the last six days dating back to their previous meeting in Michigan last Thursday. “I’m a fast guy. I can get in the corners and dig pucks out for them. I can really use my speed to jump in and transition with them. I was a skill guy all through Juniors and in the American Hockey League, so I think I complement them a little bit.”
For his part, the Canadiens’ captain firmly believed that if his squad managed to maintain their focus after a tumultuous second period, they still gave themselves a chance to spoil things for their Atlantic Division counterparts as they try to secure a playoff berth for the 25th straight season.
“I thought we dominated them 5-on-5. Obviously, we allowed some goals on the power play, so we had to keep our composure a little bit better. We knew that if we stayed out of the box in the third, we had a chance. We got rewarded in the end,” explained Pacioretty, who was visibly pleased with the final result, especially given the way things seemingly got out of control in the middle period while the Canadiens found themselves in penalty trouble.
Byron shared similar thoughts in the aftermath of the Canadiens’ 21st victory of the year on home turf.
“This team preaches hard work, compete and 60-minute efforts. We knew we had to redeem ourselves after Saturday. It doesn’t matter what the score is, what time of the game it is, this team is going to work for 60 minutes,” concluded Byron. “We might not always have our best hockey, but part of our identity and our culture here is we compete and we work hard. That’s a 60-minute game for us.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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Mike Condon is the Montreal Canadiens candidate for the Bill Masterton Trophy in 2015-16