TAMPA – Hal Gill is nothing if not consistent.
After going 100 games – and 427 days – without a goal, the veteran blue-liner needed just five-and-a-half minutes to notch his second in as many games in Tampa.
“I’d like to see the stats of how many times in his career he’s gone back-to-back with goals. That was the second? I thought for sure it would have been the first,” joked Brian Gionta
, who had an assist on Gill’s opening goal. “Looks like he’s our secret offensive force.”
Despite his recent offensive surge, Gill isn’t planning on making his case for an increase in power play minutes just yet.
“Yeah, I’m a very secret weapon,” he laughed, having scored in back-to-back outings for the first time since October 2002. “No, it’s just nice to help out. Sometimes you get lucky when you shoot at the net and you hope it goes in. It’s always fun to score. I’d love to do it more, but I’ve got my focus on other things.”
Finishing the game a plus-1 after playing a game-high 24:26 against the Lightning, Gill’s attention appeared to be locked squarely on all those other things. Logging 5:55 of ice time on the penalty kill alone, the 6-foot-7 defenseman was a big reason the Habs went 5-for-6 on the PK in Tampa.
“They have a pretty good power play and 5-on-3s are something they’re obviously even better at so that kill was a big one for us,” described Gill. “They have some gifted players out there so you always have to be on your toes with those guys. You think there’s nothing there and they make something out of it. It’s fun to play against those guys and it’s nice to have Carey back there helping us out, too.”
Jacques Martin was happy to see his defensive pillar take his advice of throwing more pucks on net, although even he was surprised with his assistant captain’s production level in the past two games.
“I thought that was Bobby Orr out there for a second,” joked Martin. “He’s been getting pucks to the net and we’ve had a good presence there in front which has made a big difference.
“The veterans on the team did a great job this week, especially after the game in Atlanta,” he added. “We won the game, but they weren’t happy with the way we won and you saw a big improvement in our work ethic and our compete level after that.”
Having provided the screen for both of Gill’s blasts from the point this week, Max Pacioretty
is hoping for more of the same from the king-sized blue-liner down the stretch.
“He’s getting pucks to the net right now and that makes my job easy because I’m going to be able to get rebounds like that,” explained the 22-year-old winger, who had two goals of his own against the Lightning. “It’s good to see a guy like Hal step up and contribute offensively.
“Especially when we’re playing a team we’re so close to like Tampa, you know you just have to get pucks to the net and get bodies there to screen and grab the rebounds,” he continued. “That’s a big reason we were successful this week and we’ll need to make sure we keep that up the rest of the way.”Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
BoxscoreNumbers game - March 5