DENVER – With big plays and bigger goals coming from the guys with letters stitched to their sweaters, the Canadiens were led in Denver by exactly the players they’re supposed to follow.
Following a three-game winless streak that included a pair of losses to the Sabres, the Canadiens hit the road looking to reverse their fortunes in Colorado. After scoring just four goals in those three losses, the Habs responded by netting four against the Avalanche alone, including three from assistant captains Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty.
“That was a great performance [by our leaders],” confirmed Michel Therrien, whose four assistant captains, including Tomas Plekanec, combined for six points against the Avs. “Pacioretty scored a big goal in the third period. We gave him good opportunities, but I liked the way he created his own chances with his intensity and his relentless puck pursuit.
“P.K. had a great game, too. He and Andrei Markov have a lot of responsibility,” added the Habs bench boss of the two veteran blue-liners, who led the team in ice time with 28:09 and 26:54, respectively. “[Sergei] Gonchar and [Alexei] Emelin, too. Those four guys had a big job tonight and they responded really well.”
Jiri Sekac got the Habs on the board in the first period – just the ninth time in 26 games that the Habs have opened the scoring – but the Canadiens fell behind on road ice after giving up goals with 35 seconds left in the first and then again 35 seconds into the second. For Subban, the secret to the team’s success this season is that even back-breaking goals heading into and coming out of an intermission can’t crack the Canadiens’ confidence.
“I think what makes our team good is that whether we’re up one or down one, we don’t panic,” shared Subban, who had a goal and an assist on Monday night. “I think that’s one of the big keys to having a successful team. You can’t get too high and you can’t get too low. I think we do a great job of sticking together and our leaders do a good job of setting the tone.
“Patch stepped up and scored a big goal for us and that’s what we need,” he added of Pacioretty’s second game winner of the season. “It’s going to be tough for him every night. The other team’s top line is going to try to shut him down, but we need him to find ways to score big goals in big moments and he’s doing that right now.”
Sealing the deal for the Canadiens with just over six minutes to go in the third period, Pacioretty scored his 12th goal of the campaign to end the game in regulation. He may have been the one who eventually lit the lamp, but the 26-year-old winger credits the work of his fellow captain in the defensive zone for starting off the play 200 feet from the Avalanche net.
“We’re trying to get three guys back below the goal line to recover those loose pucks and P.K. absorbs the hit there,” described Pacioretty, who had six shots on goal in the outing. “The puck squirts to me and I try to get it to Davey [Desharnais] along the wall and their D man pinched. I was able to go off to the races.
“I was looking to pass, but obviously that’s not really in my bag,” he added with a laugh. “The defenseman goes down and that’s when I have to shoot it. I wanted to get Weisey [Dale Weise] a goal there, but at the end of the day if we don’t bury on that, I’m coming back to the bench upset with myself. It wasn’t exactly a shootout tonight, but we had chances to score there and we put them in the net. That’s a good feeling. It’s a breath of fresh air after the last two games against Buffalo.”
Leaving the Pepsi Center with a win for the first time since February 13, 2009, the Canadiens made the most of their short stay in the Mile High City. Having rallied back not once, but twice on Monday night to start the week-long roadie on the right foot, the Habs seemed to enjoy both the journey and the destination en route to their 17th win of the season.
“I thought the music was great in the building. It kept the energy up. We were talking about it after the warmup before the game,” joked Subban when asked if the game was particularly fun for he and his teammates. “They’re a good team and whenever we play them, it always seems to be a fast paced, high energy game.
“Those are the games you want to be in, but we also like to win the boring games, too,” he added with a grin. “We’ll take those ones when they come.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
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