UNIONDALE – Max Pacioretty
has always loved New York.
Born and raised about an hour away from Long Island, New Canaan, CT native Max Pacioretty had his own cheering section on hand at the Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night. As a thank you to his family and friends in attendance, the 23-year-old power forward made sure to give them something to cheer about.
Opening the scoring for the Canadiens on his first shift of the game against the Islanders, the speedy winger hit the 20-goal benchmark for the first time in his career. But he didn’t stop there. Adding his 21st of the season off a nice feed from David Desharnais in the second period, Pacioretty kept the offensive onslaught going until the last second of the game, notching his third and final goal of the night at 19:59 in the third period – although it was actually a few milliseconds closer than that.
“That was my first pro hat trick and actually, my first hat trick I can remember in a while – and it was my first pro empty net goal,” shared Pacioretty with a grin. “I’d like to thank Cunney [Randy Cunneyworth] for putting me out there. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know [how much time was left], but my teammates helped me because as soon as I handled it they were all yelling at me from the bench. I had to shoot it pretty hard and I almost missed, actually.”
The speedy winger cut it so close to the buzzer that even he wasn’t sure it got there in time. Popping his head out to confirm with the waiting throng of media outside the dressing room, he asked, “Did it count?” After being told it did, Pacioretty gave a little fist pump to go with an excited smile before heading back inside.
“It’s probably the best feeling in the world and it comes with a win so that makes it even sweeter. I know when I give it to Davey I just have to get open and he’ll put it right on my stick,” described Pacioretty. “Still, at the end of the day we’re on the outside looking in but we’ll take three in a row and build off that. Hopefully we can keep this going.”
Having preached the importance of focusing on the process and not the results all season, head coach Randy Cunneyworth was pleased to see his gritty winger take care of both against the Islanders.
“It was an excellent game on his part with the support he gave and the work he did along the walls to recover pucks and keep the puck moving forward,” confirmed Cunneyworth of Pacioretty, who fired 10 shots and finished a plus-2 in addition to potting his trio of goals. “With that good speed he can get those point blank opportunities. If the shots are taken, even if the saves are made we’ve got guys going to the net for the rebounds.”
Not that there were many rebounds left to jump on when Pacioretty was on the ice.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
A big one
Postgame comments: Pacioretty, Gomez, Price, Cunneyworth