MONTREAL - After missing two games with the flu, Alexander Radulov made a triumphant return to the Canadiens' lineup on Saturday night.
The Russian forward collected his 12th and 13th assists of the season on goals by Paul Byron and Alex Galchenyuk in a 2-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre.
Not only did the win snap the Canadiens' three-game winless streak, but it also marked the 12th straight time that they'd managed to best their Original Six rivals.
It goes without saying that Radulov was pleased to be back after being forced to watch from the sidelines as the Canadiens fell to Florida on Tuesday and Carolina on Friday.
"It's tough to be away from all of this. I didn't feel well and I wanted to get back as soon as possible," said Radulov, who registered his team-leading fourth multi-assist effort of the year. "Obviously, I didn't want to have that time off, but I was really sick. The whole team was playing good [against Toronto]. Everybody brought an effort. We played as one group and we got the W. That's the most important thing."
Video: Alexander Radulov on his performance against Toronto
The 30-year-old former KHL standout - who currently ranks second on the Canadiens with 16 points (3g - 13a) in 17 games - shed some light on the illness he was dealing with all week long, noting that it hit him last Sunday when the Canadiens were in Chicago to take on the Blackhawks. He was able to suit up and play, but his condition essentially went downhill from there upon his return to Montreal. Suffering from a sore throat and fever, Radulov went to the hospital and recovered at home until he felt well enough to return to active duty on Saturday night.
Then, all the Nizhny Tagil native did was pick up right where he left off before feeling under the weather.
"He definitely brings a lot to the team. He brought it [against Toronto]. The plays he makes at top-end speed are unique. He does it every game," praised Galchenyuk, the recipient of a perfect tape-to-tape feed from Radulov just 32 seconds into the second period which resulted in his seventh goal of the season - and his first game-winning tally of the 2016-17 campaign.
"It was definitely tough to not see him play, but he definitely helped a lot not just on the ice, but off the ice. He's a big energizer. It was good to have him back," added Galchenyuk, who now sits tied for the team lead in goals with Byron and Shea Weber. "His playmaking skills, they're great. I can't really find a flaw. He's been playing outstanding."
Video: TOR@MTL: Galchenyuk rips a one-timer for nifty PPG
Head coach Michel Therrien was delighted to have one of his top guns back in fine form and producing in a big, big way.
"He's a guy who had another big game. What I appreciate about him is his passion. He just puts his hockey bag on his back and comes to play. He always has fun coming to the rink and it really shows," said Therrien, who simply can't say enough good things about the way Byron, Galchenyuk and Radulov connect. "They have chemistry and a great work ethic. It's nice to talk about chemistry, but it takes work ethic to make that happen. It's exceptional to watch them play as a line."
Video: TOR@MTL: Byron pushes in rebound to open the scoring
Having known Radulov for years, Weber isn't at all surprised to see him be such a huge asset to the Canadiens so quickly.
"He was well-rested. He had a week off," cracked Weber. "I think that everybody has played with guys like that at some point. Their enthusiasm is contagious. I think the guys feed off of it. That's just who he is."
Carey Price, meanwhile, ran his record to 11-0-1 on the year with a 31-save performance against the Maple Leafs.
Video: TOR@MTL: Price makes consecutive pad stops
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the All-World netminder became the second goalie in franchise history to win 11 of his first 12 appearances in a single season, joining Charlie Hodge, who accomplished the feat in 1960-61. He also became the first Canadiens goalie since Ken Dryden in 1972-73 (8-0-4) to go without a regulation loss through his first 12 outings of the year as well.