MONTREAL – On a night meant to honor the memory of one of the greatest legends in Canadiens history, Michel Therrien’s troops rode a wave of palpable emotion to an all-important victory.
Tomas Plekanec’s ninth goal of the season broke a 1-1 tie with 4:16 remaining in the third period, lifting the Canadiens to a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks at the Bell Centre on Tuesday. The win snapped the Habs’ three-game losing streak, and provided the perfect ending to a tilt dedicated to Hall-of-Famer Mr. Jean Bé
liveau, who passed away a week ago at age 83.
“We knew there was definitely going to be a lot of emotion involved. Obviously, we needed to pick up the points. We hadn’t been picking up points lately, so for us playing back at home, it was very important,” offered Brendan Gallagher, who scored his eighth goal of the year in the second period on Tuesday night. “More importantly, I think we wanted to come out and honor Mr. Bé
liveau’s legacy the best we could. That’s not an easy task. Everyone just worked hard for 60 minutes and tried to find a way to win a hockey game. It was pretty easy to find motivation and energy, and it was an enjoyable win for us.”
A riveting tribute to the Trois-Riviè
res native prior to puck drop only magnified the importance of coming out on the right side of the scoresheet. Like the rest of his teammates, Gallagher knew full well that winning was the only option under these particularly trying circumstances.
“When the ceremony first started and you were watching the clips of Mr. Bé
liveau, you just had a big smile on your face. Then, they went to Mrs. Bé
liveau and I was pretty close to cracking up looking at her. She kind of started fist-pumping to the crowd and the smile was back on my face. It was really emotional,” confided Gallagher. “I don’t think we’ve had that much energy as a group all year. We were just feeding off the situation. We wanted to represent Mr. Bé
liveau the best we could. That was a little bit more important than just Game 30 of the season.”
You didn’t have to look further than the line of Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty to know that this wasn’t just an ordinary contest for the CH. The newly formed trio hit the ground running from the opening faceoff onward, wasting little time displaying the offensive punch and creativity the Canadiens’ bench boss knew they could exhibit when he elected to put them together.
“We got used to playing together a little bit more as the game went on. We need to work together. I need to get used to Patch, and Patch needs to get used to me. As long as we have the right mentality, things are going to go well,” offered Galchenyuk, whose line accounted for 10 of the Canadiens’ 25 total shots on Canucks netminder Ryan Miller. “It was an emotional night for the city, the fans and the whole hockey world. It was important for us to come into the game with the idea that we were going to win it not only for us, but for the fans and the Bé
liveau family, too.”
For his part, Galchenyuk certainly rose to the occasion. Making a rare start at center, the 20-year-old worked his magic time and again to generate scoring opportunities in his new role.
“I got more and more comfortable as the game went on. It’s a different position, but at the end of the day, it’s still the same game. I needed to change my mindset a little bit, but I think it went well,” mentioned Galchenyuk, who won eight of the 13 draws he took on Tuesday night, operating at a 62 percent clip in the faceoff circle. “When you’re playing with Patch, you expect to play big minutes against big lines. I was prepared for it, and I’m happy that I was able to help the team win a game like this. It was a special night for a special player.”
That’s something Pacioretty stressed as well in the aftermath of the Canadiens’ 18th win of the season.
“There was a lot of emotion involved. It was an honor to be a part of a game like this. To see Mrs. Bé
liveau’s reaction in the crowd was exceptional,” offered Pacioretty, who capped the scoring with his team-leading 13th goal of the season, hitting the open net at the 19:59 mark of the third period. “I looked up at the jumbotron. I saw the Bé
liveau family and the empty seat next to Mrs. Bé
liveau. It was hard not to let the emotion come out. I’ve never seen such complete silence for so long in my entire life. It was just so respectful. It was an emotional day, and I’m very happy with the result.”
As are Habs fans the world over, who couldn’t have written a better script to ultimately thank a true gentleman for his incredible accomplishments both on and off the ice.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Highlights: Canadiens-CanucksA fitting tribute Searching for a spark Bidding farewell