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First timers

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – On a night when the Ducks could have punched their ticket to the postseason, the Habs were the ones who came out flying.

It was a night of firsts for a handful of players in the Canadiens’ lineup on Tuesday night, as three different players registered their first points and two potted their first goals since arriving in Montreal. Darren Dietz chipped in with his first NHL helper in his fifth career NHL game, Lucas Lessio picked up his first goal as a Hab, Joel Hanley notched the first two points of his NHL career with a pair of assists, and Mike Brown scored a goal and added an assist to lift the home team to a 4-3 over Anaheim at the Bell Centre.

Lucas Lessio and Mike Brown celebrate the game-winning goal in the third period.

“This was a character game. We showed up to play and we got the two points,” said Brown, referencing the team’s point haul instead of his personal stats line. “We’ve had our fair amount of chances, but we know we have to contribute. We can’t spend too much time in our D zone, and at the other end we have to pop some pucks in. We’ve been waiting a little bit of time, but we finally got a couple tonight and helped the boys win, so it was huge for us.”

Brown – who came one fight shy of completing the Gordie Howe Hat Trick – entered the night as the Canadiens’ penalty minute leader against the Ducks, with 42 PIMs in 16 games played. He ended the evening by tossing pucks into the crowd after earning first star honors, scoring his first as a Hab in the second period before assisting on Lucas Lessio’s eventual game winner in the third.

“He looked like Joey Thornton on that one, for sure,” described Lessio with a chuckle on his linemate’s perfect pass from behind the net. “I called for it and he put it right on my stick. I was grateful it went in – I definitely said thank you to him for that one. I thought he played a solid game tonight. He was one of our best players, if not our best player, and to see a guy like that get rewarded – a guy who does his job every night and a great team guy – is special.”

Brown wasn’t the only one who finally had a chance to see his hard work pay off on Tuesday night. A spark plug in each of the 11 games he’s played for the Habs this year, Lessio became the 26th player to score a goal for the Canadiens in 2015-16 when he beat John Gibson in the third period.

“I’ve gotten pretty close at times and it starts to get frustrating when you’re not getting the results,” admitted the 23-year-old winger, who arrived in Montreal via a trade with Arizona on December 15. “We’ve just been trying to play our game every night: work hard and work for the team. We’ve had chances, but chances don’t count unless they cross the line, so to see it go in tonight was definitely a big relief.”

No stranger to seeing pucks cross the goal line this season, Alex Galchenyuk continued his torrid scoring pace by blasting home his 27th of the campaign off a great feed from Max Pacioretty. But even he enjoyed a first of sorts on Tuesday night, getting called on to take his first shorthanded, defensive zone faceoff of the season – which he won – to continue cementing his status as a full-time, first-line NHL center.

“You’ve got guys battling for positions next year, so every game is an audition,” explained Lessio, who played 7:34 against Anaheim. “Every shift counts for a lot of guys and tonight really showed that. A lot of younger guys stepped up and the veterans were great tonight. If we keep playing like that, I think we’re going to win a lot more than we’re going to lose.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for

Postgame: March 22
Game Highlights: Canadiens vs Ducks
IceCaps report – March 21
Weekly overview

First of many

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