MONTREAL - Tasked with responding in the face of adversity, the Canadiens looked like a team on a mission Saturday night against the Senators.
In the midst of their longest winless streak of the season, the Canadiens banded together and came out of the gates flying, peppering Senators' goaltender Craig Anderson with 27 first period shots.
"It was a big performance from our team, especially in the first period. We put a lot of pressure on the opposing team, specifically on their goalie,” praised coach Therrien, whose troops tied the Canadiens all-time record for shots on goal in a single period, equalizing the benchmark set on January 1, 1973. “We’ve been struggling to win games recently, even when we do a lot of good things. I wasn’t discouraged. We controlled the puck possession battle and we knew that if we kept working, good things would happen."
Though the Eastern Conference leading Habs had yet to experience a great deal of adversity thus far in the 2015-16 season, their bench boss is no stranger to the ups and downs of an NHL season. When asked what the coach preached to his brigade before Saturday’s contest, Paul Byron summed up Therrien’s message with one word.
“Compete. We knew we had to win. Four losses in a row are tough to swallow for any team. But we believe in ourselves and we believe we are a good hockey team. That first period was definitely the right answer for our team,” explained Byron, who was placed by Therrien on the Habs top line alongside Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec, who were reunited after a two game reprieve. “Coach lets you know when things are going well or when they aren’t going well. His method involves a lot of teaching. If you have a good game he tells you what you have done right and what he would like you to continue doing. You also know that if you don’t play well he is there to help teach you and get you back to what made you successful.”
Battling through his first losing streak as captain of the Montreal Canadiens, Max Pacioretty led his team with a relentless determination to outwork the opponent.
“I saw a line recently that said, ‘to win, you have to know how to lose,’ and I really liked that because we learned a lot from those four games. I think we showed it tonight. Obviously it’s not perfect, but we move forward from this game on,” expressed Pacioretty, who fired six shots on Craig Anderson in the first period before ultimately piercing the netminders’ amour with his sixth. “We had a lot to prove. We got away from our game and that’s a terrible feeling. Everyone doubted us going into the third, feeling different than earlier in the year when we were getting strong third period efforts. To be able to come out with that win, it’s huge, especially for Ticker. He deserved the win in Detroit and he had a great game tonight.”
The reunited duo of Pacioretty and Plekanec – who pulled even with former Habs captain Saku Koivu for 20th spot on the Canadiens all-time games played list, suiting up for his 792nd in a Canadiens uniform - combined forces to put the Habs up 2-0 in the first period. The goal also marked the pair’s 14th tally of the season where both players picked up a point on the scoring play, as the two became the Habs’ most prolific scoring pair on the team.
“The leaders of the team lifted their game up a notch. You need your best players to be the difference makers. This is what it takes for any team to be successful," stressed Therrien, who relied heavily on his two veteran forwards against the Senators. “Some of the guys had good opportunities, even if they were not able to score. But Pacioretty and Plekanec definitely set a great example for their teammates.”
Snapping a four game losing streak will inevitably help take some of the weight off of the Habs leadership core, especially in the absence of veterans like Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher and Torrey Mitchell. In Pacioretty’s case, a big win over an Atlantic Division rival, combined with another two points in the standings will certainly help the captain sleep easy tonight.
“We responded the right way tonight. To be honest, I didn’t sleep the past two nights. This is my life, I take this very seriously and I think all of my teammates do as well,” concluded Pacioretty. Jared Ostroff is a writer for canadiens.com
Postgame: Dec. 12
Game Highlights: Canadiens vs Senators
Gone in 42 seconds
Spreading some joy