MONTREAL - When Alexei Emelin raised his hands in triumph over the weekend moments after snapping a 37-game goal drought against the New York Rangers, one thing in particular was going through his mind.
"That goal was for my baby, Elisaveta. I was thinking about my kids," said Emelin, who along with his wife, Valentina, welcomed their third child into the world on December 22, adding to the clan that already included daughters, Lesya, 9, and Mila, 4. "I was so excited. I don't often score goals, but when I do, it's an amazing feeling."
It wasn't just any ordinary goal, of course. At the time, it tied the score at three just under 11 minutes into the third period. It also kicked off a scoring spree of three goals scored within a 62-second span that helped spur a huge comeback win on home ice.
Video: NYR@MTL: Emelin scores through traffic to tie game
Emelin's ear-to-ear grin and subsequent celebration with his teammates was a good indication that this tally meant something special to him, like it had a higher purpose, of sorts. The 30-year-old Russian rearguard admits that becoming a new father again has been a source of incredible inspiration when it comes to his play.
"It's a new emotion. It's a little bit of a different feeling [out there] because it feels like I'm flying. You have a second wind," said Emelin, referencing the immediate impact Elisaveta has had on him while he's been patrolling the Canadiens' blue line and dishing out his fair share of highlight-reel hits along the way. "A baby is new life. I'm happy. My wife is happy. Everybody is happy."
Emelin's older daughters, meanwhile, are doing everything they can to help Valentina out around the house. With the Canadiens' jam-packed schedule - much of which has kept their dad away from home quite a bit of late - Lesya and Mila have really picked up the slack on the home front according to the six-year NHL veteran.
"Both girls help out a lot at home. The young one is so small, so she needs more care. Lesya helps a lot. She cooks for Mila. She makes breakfast on the weekends because during the week she goes to school early. They both help out with Elisaveta, too," mentioned Emelin, who spends as much time as possible with Elisaveta once his work at the rink is done. "Valentina is so good with her, but she's so tired right now. The baby doesn't sleep much at night. She needs some rest. After games, I take the baby for a couple of hours and give her some time to relax."
Elisaveta isn't the only new addition serving as a key motivator for Emelin right now, though. The arrival of Alexander Radulov to the dressing room has also had a noticeable effect on his fellow countryman - and the group as a whole - since the season began.
"Radu is a guy who brings a lot of energy to our room. He's a guy who brings everyone together. That's very important," explained Emelin, before lauding the great sense of camaraderie that exists between players on and off the ice. "Staying together and talking a lot helps everyone. We talk on the plane, we talk on the ice. The Russian guys all talk a lot together, and we play a lot of card games on the plane. It's nice. We're tight. So far, so good. If the team is playing well and my game is good, I'm happy."
Emelin's game has definitely been good. Along with being the third-most utilized player on the roster during the 2016-17 campaign, Emelin is currently on pace to be the Canadiens' hit leader for a sixth-straight season. He leads the team with 144 hits in 43 games, 58 hits clear of second-place Shea Weber. That ranks him fourth in the League in that department. He also sits third on the Canadiens with 77 blocked shots.
Video: BOS@MTL: Emelin's at it again
As everything continues to trend in the right direction for Emelin on the homefront and with his teammates, he couldn't be feeling any better about his current situation.
"My kids participate in a lot of activities and we're always moving around. I feel very comfortable here. I like the area that we live in and I like Montreal, too," concluded Emelin, a full-time Montreal resident since joining the fold in 2011-12. "I feel at home."