MONTREAL – After securing a three-goal lead heading into the second period, the Canadiens made it hard for the Senators to get much more than that first period goal. While the Sens attempted to disrupt Montreal’s bench, the Habs held strong, fighting back just as hard.
Erik Cole made Montreal history Friday night by netting the fastest hat trick from the beginning of a game, doing so by scoring three consecutive goals not even six minutes into the first period. Not too fazed by his success, he quickly shone the light on his teammates for the night’s triumph.
“There was passion, and especially so from the guys we’re counting on to be a physical presence in our line up,” stated Cole as he was surrounded by a sea of journalists. “As a group we did a good job of being five-man strong and sticking up for one and other, getting guys in on scrums and everything.”
Montreal has seen its physical game grow since claiming Brad Staubitz off waivers on February 27 and after Ryan White made a comeback after missing most of the season due to surgery.
“It’s fun to play these types of games and it’s always fun to play against rivals. We’re happy we got this one tonight,” shared White who dropped the gloves with Sens heavyweight Chris Neil at the end of the first.
“I stick up for my teammates and if we stick together out there can go a long way,” continued the feisty winger. “I don’t know if it was an element missing in our team, but it’s something we definitely need to have and every team needs it. It’s a tough league. You’ve got tough guys on every team and guys playing hard. We just want to make sure are guys are protected, our goalie is protected and our big guns are protected. If we keep playing like that, we’ll be alright.”
The one who witnesses most of this first hand is grateful his team's new, rugged identity.
“I think it’s been pretty huge when you have guys backing you up,” confessed Carey Price. “You play a little bit grittier knowing you’ve got four or five guys who are willing to stick up for you. It gives you more confidence,” he continued.
“Teams are a little bit more hesitant to come to the front of the net ever since Whitey stuck up for me,” said the All-Star netminder of White’s actions against the Minnesota Wild on March 1, where he served 22 total minutes for fighting. “Obviously they were going to the front of the net a lot, trying to stir things up, but we had five guys right there willing to stick up for each other."
The Sens upped the intensity after Lars Eller put one past Craig Anderson five minutes into the third period, making it 5-1.
“Any game where you get up and get a lead like that, it can easily slip into a game like it did tonight,” shared Staubitz, who has starred in 15 fights so far this season and was the first to square off on Friday, taking on Zenon Konopka two minutes into the game. “I think we dealt with it pretty well, we stuck together and tried to stay out of the box but of course you’ll end up there if you’re helping out your teammates. They came after us quite a bit, but we dealt with it pretty well, putting pucks in the net and playing a good game.”
Montreal’s head coach couldn’t be happier seeing his players back each other up.
“I think collectively there’s strength in numbers. If everyone sticks together, that’s a force to be reckoned with,” shared Randy Cunneyworth after the game. “You add a player like Brad Staubitz and we become more of a force as a unit. No one guy can do it on his own.”
The Canadiens will take that spirit to Philadelphia where they will face off against the Flyers on Saturday night. Philly is 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.
Lee Anne Vincent O'Connor is a writer for canadiens.com.
Notebook - March 22, 2012