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If the hat fits

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
MONTREAL - In a week dedicated to goal-setting, Alex Galchenyuk has quickly shown a knack for goal scoring.


Playing in his first game since meeting with Michel Therrien to outline some of the strides his head coach would like to see the 20-year-old forward make in his third NHL season, Galchenyuk proved he’s ready to listen.

“We had a good talk this week about his objectives for this season, and in his case, what we’re really looking for is consistency, like in any young player,” explained Therrien of the Canadiens’ third overall draft pick from 2012. “He’s got a lot of potential that still needs to be polished. Games like tonight will help him build not just his confidence, personally, but also chemistry with [Max] Pacioretty. It’s his third season and he’s more comfortable in the league now. You can see him as a 20-year-old player, but you can also see him as a third-year player. Our objectives for him this year are very precise.”

Centering Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher for a third consecutive game, Galchenyuk quickly showcased his ability to adjust to his new role. Scoring the eventual game-winner midway through the second before adding two more late in the third to halt a Hurricanes comeback and register his first career NHL hat trick on Tuesday, the early reviews were positive from the Habs’ bench boss.

“He was very productive on offense and he made good things happen,” continued Therrien. “He was heavily involved in the game. I’m happy that he was able to score his first career hat trick, but I’m also pleased with Pacioretty’s hard work tonight. He showed excellent vision on the ice.”

Likewise, Galchenyuk also stressed that the milestone outing couldn’t have been possible without the helping hand of his new linemate, who registered assists on all three goals.

“We had good chemistry today. Pacioretty made great plays on all three goals,” acknowledged the six-foot-one, 198-pounder. “They were all thanks to some amazing passes that came my way, so my job was easy. I got used to his speed and he got used to playing with me. I had a lot of fun out there tonight. I was happy to score two goals, but it feels even better to score three.”

While the three pucks waiting in Galchenyuk’s locker easily marked the Milwaukee, WI native’s milestone as his first, Pacioretty, for his part, was less sure of the last time he achieved his own trio of helpers.

“Is that a trick question? I don’t think that’s ever happened, so maybe he owes me dinner now or something,” cracked the 26-year-old winger who has more recently been known to cap off scoring plays rather than set them up. “I never used to score goals so maybe I’ll go back to my old ways. It’s just a lot of fun right now. It’s fun playing with those two. I’m not old by any means, but they’re pretty young and they bring my age down a little bit. I feel like I have a lot more energy playing with them at times – they’re always going, always buzzing. They’re two guys who are easy to play with.”

Combining for three highlight-reel goals that left Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward with little chance between the pipes, Pacioretty credits his line’s flare for the spectacular to just the opposite – getting back to basics.

“What I like about our line right now is that we’re just reacting. We’re not really overthinking things out there and I think that makes us dangerous,” admitted the Canadiens’ assistant captain. “We know where each of us is going to be on the ice and I think we’re starting to make our plays off of instincts. When a line does that, it’s a lot of fun to play, but at the same time we also know we have things to get better at, so we’re looking forward to that.”

On a night that saw just the fourth player in Canadiens history register a hat trick before the age of 21, Galchenyuk is already itching for an encore.

“I’m only 20 years-old," underlined the Habs forward who now sits with select company. "Hopefully it doesn’t stop.”

Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com.

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