MONTREAL – Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec have something special going right now, and not even the defensive-minded Washington Capitals were going to keep them at bay on Saturday afternoon.
Pacioretty chipped a perfect feed from the Czech pivot at the 3:08 mark of overtime past Capitals netminder Braden Holtby to lift the Canadiens to a 1-0 victory at the Bell Centre. It was the second straight game-winning tally for Pacioretty, whose marker extended the Habs’ winning streak to five consecutive games. It was also the first time since February 2010 that Michel Therrien’s troops had managed to best Alex Ovechkin & Co. in their own barn in regular season play.
“It could’ve been easier for Pleky just to dump it in and change. We’d been out there for a little bit. But, he delayed there and it looked like the defenseman [Brooks Orpik] backed off a bit. I went from the outside to the inside. As soon as I put my stick down, he knew that we had a lane there,” offered Pacioretty, who now leads the Canadiens with 23 goals and 40 points on the year. “Obviously, it’s a good bounce. Just by going to the net, good things happen. It was a great play by him early on in the play just to give us some time and space to create that goal.”
The pair combined to generate 13 of the Canadiens’ 30 total shots on Saturday afternoon, so it was fitting that the dynamic duo’s efforts clicked when the stakes were at their highest in the extra frame. That's been Pacioretty and Plekanec's M.O. since being featured on the same line for the first time seven games ago in Columbus. Since then, they've produced a total of seven goals and 14 points.
“I saw him coming. That’s why I held on to the puck as long as possible, to give him time to get to the crease,” mentioned Plekanec, who was the Canadiens’ most-utilized forward against the Capitals, logging 23:21 of ice time, while winning 58 percent of his draws along the way. “I’m happy with the way things went. It was a long shift, but I felt we had one last chance to go for it. That’s why we tried. I just saw the opportunity with all the open ice in front of me.”
The goal was particularly satisfying for Pacioretty, who, like the rest of the group, couldn’t find a way to solve Holtby through regulation time despite peppering the Capitals starter with 15 shots in the third period alone.
“I felt really bad during the game. Pleky gave me so many opportunities to score and I wasn’t able to put one in for him. We were joking around two nights ago that I couldn’t put one in on an empty net when he gave it to me [in New York]. It feels good to finish off one of his great plays,” mentioned Pacioretty, who sits tied with Lars Eller for the team-lead with five game-winning goals in 2014-15. “We had a lot of them in this game. We’re just thankful we were able to put it in the net in the end.”
As was the Bell Centre faithful, who were pleased to see goaltender Carey Price rewarded for another outstanding effort between the pipes. The 27-year-old turned aside 36 shots to register his fourth shutout of the season. It was the 29th time Price had blanked the opposition over the course of his career, enabling him to join Hall-of-Famer Patrick Roy in fifth spot on the Canadiens’ all-time shutout list.
“He’s amazing. He’s so humble. He just comes to the rink and does his job. A guy like that doesn’t have to open his mouth once to be the best leader on this team. The way he shows up, the way he handles himself, the way he carries himself, he’s the backbone of this team,” praised Pacioretty, who watched Price record his first set of back-to-back shutout performances since November 2011. “We left him out to dry during spurts of that game, but at the end of the day we played a pretty good grinding game. We’re trying to play well in front of him defensively. We know our goals are going to come once we get a few bounces. We’re thankful we have him back there every game.”
Price will be the first one to tell you, however, that from his vantage point Saturday afternoon’s win was a byproduct of a total team effort, one that ended with the Canadiens picking up their 32nd win of the campaign.
“We definitely competed for the whole game. It seemed like Washington did the exact same thing. It was important that we didn’t let up at any point. I thought our compete level was there the whole time,” offered Price, who now boasts a 27-10-2 record, a 2.03 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage in 39 starts this season. “We’re all making contributions. It’s a team sport. Guys are doing their part. I’m relying on the guys around me and they’re relying on me. Right now, we’ve got a perfect harmony going.”
Well said, Carey. Very well said.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
The Numbers Game - January 31, 2015
Change is good
Feels like April