MONTREAL – Sometimes you’ve got to fight for your right to be an NHLer.
Just ask Christian Thomas and Jarred Tinordi.
Both on the receiving end of some rough stuff courtesy of a physical Blue Jackets side on Saturday, Thomas and Tinordi nevertheless stood their ground on home ice, proving they can play with the big boys.
“Those kids are really hungry and they did really well again tonight,” praised head coach Michel Therrien of just the latest impressive effort filed by the Habs’ young guns. “Tinordi was physical and Thomas is intense. He’s a guy who’s going hard and is all in all the time. I’m not saying you like to see fights, but it’s obvious he’s trying to make an impact on this team.”
“Trying” may have been putting it lightly in terms of the five-foot-nine, 176-pound Thomas who dropped the gloves for his first career NHL scrap opposite Matt Calvert, but the 22-year-old’s teammates were less reserved with their opinions.
“That was great. I'd never seen him fight before. That was incredible,” raved Tinordi, who also put up his dukes late in the first for the second time in as many games since being called up on Wednesday. “He was going pretty good there.”
That seemed to be the consensus among the Habs’ former Bulldogs contingent.
“He showed a lot of guts going in there and sticking up for himself,” lauded teammate Nathan Beaulieu, who found himself in a similar situation just a week ago when he went toe-to-toe with Toronto's David Clarkson for career fight card No. 2 while sticking up for defensive partner Sergei Gonchar. “When someone challenges you like that you have to defend yourself and I thought he did a really good job.”
Which is why you didn’t even have to be a pugilist to appreciate Thomas’ work with his ones and twos.
“He was amazing. I didn’t know he had that in him,” confessed Habs sniper Max Pacioretty, who counts just four career bouts across 378 NHL games to date, preferring to do his damage in the back of nets. “He just told me that his dad told him whoever throws the most punches wins. He put his head down and it looked like it wasn’t his first fight. He did a great job and I’m so happy for him.”
In fact, despite registering his team-leading fourth multi-goal game of the season thanks to a pair of rare first period markers, it was the work of his newest teammates as a whole which impressed the assistant captain most.
“[Scoring those two early goals] was amazing, but the best feeling for me – I think the difference tonight – were all our call ups,” dished Pacioretty, who added goals 28 and 29 to his season tally on Saturday. “We’ve faced a lot of adversity with some injuries recently, but when you see guys like Tinordi, Beaulieu, Pateryn, Thomas, and De La Rose feeling comfortable out there, I think that’s the difference. I’m really happy for them, because they were the next men up and they’ve done a great job so far.”
Although Thomas did well to earn the unanimous decision from his teammates, the burgeoning brawler was reluctant to say whether he also earned the knockout.
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen it. I just tried my best but I don’t know how it looked,” cracked the winger postgame.
Even though it may not have been pretty, Thomas was still glad to check yet another item off of his growing NHL to-do list, after also scoring his first career goal earlier this month on February 12 against Edmonton.
“I guess it was nice to get the first one over with. You never know when they’ll happen but tonight was the night,” acknowledged the Toronto native who has played in all 14 games with the big club since being called up for a second stint in Montreal on January 25. “All the boys were pretty excited. It was great to have their support. Now I’m ready for my second one.”
Now also back on track collectively following a brief two-game slide, Thomas however may have packed the night’s biggest punch in his parting comments on behalf of a group which has yet to drop a regulation decision at home on a Saturday night, counting 46 points at the Bell Centre this season overall.
“It was a great win, most of all. We lost the last one here in OT, but this team isn’t going to lose two in a row at home, that’s for sure.”
Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com
Thomas vs. Calvert
Tinordi vs. Boll
The Numbers Game: February 21, 2015
Delivering the goods