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Forward March

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

DETROIT – The Canadiens exorcised their Motor City demons on Thursday night, and the line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek played a central role in handing their Atlantic division rivals a tough loss.

The trio generated a combined six points (3G, 3A) between them in a 5-4 victory over the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, pacing the bleu-blanc-rouge to their fourth consecutive win and getting the Habs' four-game road swing off to a solid start. It was also the Canadiens’ first win in three meetings with Detroit this season, and their first triumph in Hockeytown since Nov. 2008.

“As a line, I feel we’re gaining some momentum, gaining some steam at the right time. We’re having a lot of fun and I feel like we’re getting better every night. We want to gain that momentum going into playoffs,” offered Pacioretty, who picked up his 33rd goal of the season on Thursday night, matching a career-high the power forward had previously hit during the 2011-12 campaign.

“When we start making no-look passes to each other in the offensive zone, thinking outside the box and making plays that you don’t see a lot of people make, it just kind of comes naturally and you stop thinking out there,” added the New Canaan, CT native, whose line combined to rack up a stellar plus-9 differential against Mike Babcock’s contingent in a wild back-and-forth affair that saw the Red Wings ultimately drop their second consecutive game and lose out on valuable points. “It’ll be nice to go down to Florida, have a couple of practices and gain even more momentum.”

That’s something Vanek is counting on, too. Like his linemates, the Austrian senses that the trio is steadily improving and peaking at just the right moment. The veteran winger, who has certainly made his presence felt in a Canadiens uniform since arriving on the scene at the trade deadline back on March 5, believes every member of the group can benefit from this productive on-ice relationship, one he’s content to lead.

“I think we’re getting better every game as a line. I think the way I see the ice and play the game, it’s just up to me to talk to them a lot and let them know what I see,” explained Vanek, who tallied three points against Detroit including his fifth goal in a Habs uniform which proved to be the eventual game-winner. “I think as long as they agree and they don’t mind, and they don’t seem to, I think I can make them better players and they can make me a heck of a lot better as well.”

For his part, Tomas Plekanec chipped in with two goals, getting the Canadiens off and running early on in the first period and putting them up 2-0 through 20 minutes of play. While the Red Wings clawed their way back into the game time and time again, the Czech centerman was content to walk away with another two big points in the standings which inch the club closer and closer to clinching a coveted playoff berth.

“We made it complicated on ourselves, especially at the start of the second and third period. It wasn’t good at all. We got lucky that we were able to find a way to win,” offered Plekanec, who reached the 20-goal plateau for the sixth time in his career on Thursday night with the help of a pair of tape-to-tape assists from P.K. Subban. “P.K. made two nice plays. The first one was a heads up play in the slot and the second one was about good communication. He yelled at me that I was dropping down and made a nice play. It was almost an empty-netter. Two nice plays.”

The Canadiens' 42nd win of the season helped them maintain their second-place standing in the Atlantic Division with 91 points, two points clear of Tampa Bay. Now, Michel Therrien’s troops will look to take the state of Florida by storm with games against the Panthers and Lightning on the horizon.

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

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