COLUMBUS – The Canadiens’ power play came to life when they needed it most on Wednesday night.
Down 2-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets with 8:30 remaining in regulation time, Michel Therrien’s troops scored three straight goals with the man advantage in a span of just under four minutes to secure a 3-2 win at Nationwide Arena which snapped their two-game losing streak. It was only the second time all season long that the Canadiens had scored three power play goals in a single tilt, and the first time in 2014-15 that they’d managed to light the lamp at least twice while up a man on road ice.
“The power play was a big topic this week. We were talking about it in the media. We were working on it in the room and watching a lot of clips. We knew that we had to go the same way and just wait for our bounces and momentum. That’s what happened,” offered Max Pacioretty, who stretched his goal-scoring streak to five games by potting his 19th and 20th goals of the year, the second of which proved to be the game-winner. “We knew that we needed a bounce to start putting them in on [Sergei] Bobrovsky. He was playing out of his mind, especially early in the game. He’s a great goalie. That’s just the way it goes when you face a hot goaltender. I liked how we kept our game the same for 60 minutes and that’s why we were rewarded.”
The Habs were 0-for-4 on the power play before Pacioretty bested the Blue Jackets’ Vezina Trophy-winning netminder in the second half of the final frame. That just seemed to swing the momentum in the Canadiens’ favour, and they never looked back, picking up their sixth consecutive win away from the friendly confines of the Bell Centre.
“I’m not really sure what made the difference. I think we just won a lot of battles. We wanted the puck and we worked it around. We just kept it really simple. We got pucks to the net. Once we started shooting, it opened up other things. We were able to create some chances and we were able to score some goals,” explained Brendan Gallagher, who collected his 12th assist of the season on Pacioretty’s first tally on Wednesday night. “It was something we worked on. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We were trying to get it going and we finally found something that worked. Hopefully, we can stick with it and it will get on a roll.”
While the power play clearly hit its stride in the Buckeye State, the same can be said of the way in which the trio of Pacioretty, Gallagher and Tomas Plekanec came together from the start. The line combined to generate 18 of the Canadiens’ 31 total shots on goal, giving Blue Jackets defenders trouble all night long.
“It seemed like all three of us on our line were one-touch moving it. We found open areas and we had some chemistry. Pleky is a guy I haven’t played much with, but whenever guys play with him they have success because he knows what he’s doing and he’s simple to play with,” praised Pacioretty, who hit the 20-goal plateau for the third time in his NHL career while registering his third multi-goal game of the season. “That’s why we had a lot of chances. He made our line go. It’s fun to play with him.”
Like the Canadiens’ No. 67, Gallagher liked what he saw from the talented line combination.
“I’ve played with both of them before. I thought we worked well together. We were able to create some chances. Nobody was holding on to the puck for too long. We worked it around pretty good,” mentioned Gallagher. “It’s only one game. We know it’s going to get tougher. It’s going to be a challenge, but I think as a line we’re excited for that.”
So is the Canadiens’ bench boss, who was pleased to see his contingent fight back when they weren’t getting the results they were looking for during the better part of the game.
“We made some adjustments that paid dividends. They allowed us to go get that win. We got into trouble with some bad penalties. That gave them a chance to score the second goal with less than 10 minutes to go. I liked the way we responded with our power play, though,” offered Therrien, whose club will wrap up their two-game road swing with a tilt against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night at the Canadian Tire Centre. “The line of Pacioretty, Plekanec and Gallagher was a constant threat all game long. Max and Tomas have played with one another on the penalty kill for a while now. There’s already some chemistry there. We’ve made some changes and we think those are the best possible decisions.”
Based on the way Wednesday night’s contest ultimately played out, it’s tough to argue with that assessment.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.SEE ALSOHighlightsNumbers gameFrom one challenge to the next Power Practice