UNIONDALE – In their final regular season visit to Nassau Coliseum, Michel Therrien’s troops delivered the total team effort they were so desperately looking for.
Coming off a pair of losses on home turf, the Canadiens knew full well that besting the New York Islanders in their own barn would require them to get back to playing the type of hockey that had earned them a place atop the NHL standings for the better part of the year. It didn’t take long to see that they were dead set on doing just that, going toe-to-toe with Jack Capuano’s contingent to kick start their three-game road swing with a 3-1 victory on Saturday night.
“We liked our performance. We’re always trying to get better, maybe play a little bit better with that lead and put some more pressure on them rather than sitting back. But, we can’t get too greedy. That’s a good game for our club, especially against a desperate team on the road. Obviously, you’ve got to give a lot of credit to Pricer as well,” offered Max Pacioretty, who scored his 34th goal of the season on Saturday night, which also just happened to be his team-leading ninth game-winning tally of the year and his second short-handed goal in as many games. “I think all things considered, we kept it pretty smart out there. We made the right decisions with the puck, getting it deep, and playing smart with the lead. It’s a good start in the right direction. We want to build off that and get rolling here before playoffs.”
That’s definitely the right way to look at things this time of year, especially with so much at stake in terms of playoff positioning in a very tight Eastern Conference race.
“I’d say it’s one of our best 60-minute games lately. There are still things we can improve on that we’ve done better in the past, but I think it was a step in the right direction for sure,” stressed Lars Eller, who capped the scoring with an empty-netter, in addition to adding an assist on Pacioretty’s second-period marker. “We had to skate because the Islanders are a fast team, and a team that skates a lot, too. We knew that we had to match them in that department. For us, it was about bringing that effort, and when we do that, we usually get the results we’re looking for.”
It’s safe to say that Carey Price was a difference-maker once again between the pipes. The Anahim Lake, BC native delivered a 35-save effort to secure his 38th win of the year, matching a career-high set during the 2010-11 campaign.
“It’s definitely always good to get two road points. It’s a confidence-builder. It’s been a tough building to win in this year. The crowd was into it. I definitely thought we played well,” offered Price, whose helped the CH complete a three-game season-sweep of the Islanders. “We’ve been competitive all season long. We’ve put in a pretty solid effort all year. The 38th win was a hard one to get to. I’m looking forward to getting the next one.”
That will undoubtedly require the same type of effort the Canadiens offered up in their 69th outing of the year, especially with road contests against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers on the horizon on Monday and Tuesday night, respectively.
“There was a lot of intensity on the part of both teams. I liked the way we competed, especially because we’ve had a few difficulties in that department lately. When you compete, emotion comes with it. You won’t have emotion if you don’t compete,” praised Therrien, whose club now sits tied with the New York Rangers atop the Eastern Conference with 93 points on the season. “We’re well aware that these are all big games. We started this trip off well.”
Now, the goal is simply to bring that same type of energy night in and night out for the final 13 games of the year.
“Moving forward, we want to build on that and keep bringing a solid effort like that,” concluded Price. “If we stick to our guns and play that type of hockey, we’ll be successful the rest of the year.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com
The Numbers Game: March 14, 2015
Notebook - March 13, 2015
Righting the course
The Montreal Canadiens announce the transfer of the Hamilton Bulldogs to St.John's, Newfoundland