MONTREAL – For a group looking for more balanced scoring, the Habs got a full team effort against the Islanders on Saturday.
With the Eastern Conference leaders in the building and a familiar face in goal who had been nothing but perfect against the Canadiens since being traded from Montreal in 2010, the Habs – and eight different point-getters – replied the best way they knew how. By putting up a half dozen goals on the board against one of the NHL’s toughest teams.
“It was obviously a big game for us. They’re a really good team this year – one of the best in the league – and coming off a couple of losses ourselves lately, it was good for us to bounce back with that performance tonight,” explained Tomas Plekanec, who has now totaled 37 points in just 36 career games opposite the Isles after picking up a pair of goals and two assists on Saturday.
While the four-point outing wasn’t the first of Plekanec’s career, that’s not to say the night wasn’t a memorable one for the 32-year-old center.
“It’s been a long time since I played here with [Jaroslav] Halak. He’s a good goalie who never lost a game against us since being traded, so it felt good to get one back against him,” admitted the Habs’ assistant captain.
It didn’t take long for the Canadiens to open the scoring, as P.K. Subban grabbed the lead with a power play blast just 1:56 into the first, and the team never looked back. With another power play marker courtesy of Plekanec coming later in the second, the Habs’ man advantage has now accounted for five goals over the last three games after notably dedicating a pair of practices to the unit a week ago.
“We spent a lot of time working on our power play recently. It was a hot topic for us, but we’ve finally found the combinations we were looking for,” noted the Czech forward, who is ranked second among his teammates for power play points this season with nine. “The biggest thing for us on the power play tonight was the work the guys did in front of the net. If you look at all of our goals tonight, they all had someone screening the goalie.”
If the work being done on special teams was the topic du jour at practice a week ago, the noteworthy news heading into the weekend were head coach Michel Therrien’s line changes following a 4-1 loss in Ottawa on Thursday.
Dale Weise was notably back on the Canadiens’ top line, while Alex Galchenyuk moved back to the wing after a 15-game stint at center, two moves which quickly paid off – literally – as Weise and Galchenyuk scored 10 and 52 seconds into the second and third periods, respectively.
“Sometimes when things aren’t working, that’s what happens. A lot of coaches will juggle lines – you mix things up and it can spark some guys,” acknowledged forward Brandon Prust, who dropped the gloves opposite Matt Martin to set the tone early in the game. “Playing with new guys sometimes gives you a bit more jump – guys are kind of feeding off each other – and that’s what happened tonight. Every line was going tonight, every line had their chances, and it was good to see some guys rewarded.”
Already tying his career best goal- and point-totals after just 41 games played, Weise insists that performances like Saturday’s are exactly what have made the Canadiens so dangerous this season.
“We’re a tough team to face, especially when all four of our lines are clicking like they did tonight,” offered the 26-year-old forward who has shown a knack for generating offense on every line he’s played on this season. “Every night we have different players who step up. It’s a key element of our team. When the first line doesn’t score, you’ll see the second, third, or even fourth lines pitch in. It was awesome to see everybody contributing tonight.”
Which at the end of the day, it turns out, is all a head coach can ask for.
“It was a great team win tonight, and as a coach, it’s exactly what you want to see from your players,” praised Therrien. “The guys worked hard, we were happy with their effort, and they deserved to win.”
Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com
The Numbers Game - January 17, 2015
Carving his niche
One false step
Just what the doctor ordered