BUFFALO - Here are a few key storylines from Thursday night's 3-1 win over the Sabres at the KeyBank Center.
Good start to the second
After a difficult opening frame, the Candiens came out firing in the middle stanza. Veteran Ilya Kovalchuk got things started with his eighth goal of the season, which was also his fifth marker in 10 games with Montreal.
It was also his 24th goal in 42 career games against the Sabres.
Celebrating his return to the lineup after a six-game absence, Brendan Gallagher put the Habs ahead shortly after Kovalchuk found the back of the net.
By the time the period was 3:05 old, Claude Julien's contingent was on top.
Following the 3-1 victory, Gallagher noted that key changes were in order in between the first and second periods to sway the momentum in their favor.
"The first period for us was pretty sloppy. I think we just kind of needed to make a little adjustment. We started putting some pucks behind them. There wasn't much flow," mentioned Gallagher, who scored his 16th goal of the season. "But I think from the second period on, I felt more comfortable and our team started to play more our game. We were pretty happy with the way it went after that."
Video: Brendan Gallagher on his return to the lineup
While the Canadiens didn't register their first shot on goal until the 10:29 mark of the first period, they clearly took control of things in that all-important middle frame.
In fact, they were outshooting the Sabres 22-10 after 40 minutes.
They were especially strong defensively, most notably because of the handywork of goaltender Carey Price and their effort on the penalty kill.
"We had a good shift at the end of the first period. We took that momentum into the second. And Price made some big stops," stressed Phillip Danault, who picked up an assist on Gallagher's goal. "We also played well when we were short-handed. I'd say it was a turning point in the game."
For his part, Price thought his teammates made his job a lot easier versus Buffalo.
"I thought we played really good defensive hockey over the last two periods," praised Price, who made 20 saves. "We really didn't give them much."
Video: Carey Price on a huge victory over the Sabres
Suzuki continues to impress
Nick Suzuki's performance didn't go unnoticed on Thursday night.
He centered a line with Joel Armia and Kovalchuk for the first time this season.
The 20-year-old London, ON native finished the night with two assists, earning some praise from his bench boss.
"He was good tonight. He was reliable in the faceoff circle on his strong side. It's the type of decision I have to make as we move along. He made a nice play on the empty-net goal, too," mentioned Julien during his postgame press conference. "He's an intelligent player. You have to pick your moments so a player can enjoy success. I thought that Suzuki was on his game tonight."
His teammates were equally impressed as well.
"I'm not surprised. He's really good. He has good skills and a good head on his shoulders," said Danault. "He's good defensively, and he's capable offensively. He's been playing big for us."
Kovalchuk is also a fan.
"We practiced together for the last few days, so they're two young and very talented players. It's always fun. You get the energy from them. Suzi, he's a really good creator," said Kovalchuk. "It's fun to play with those guys."
Video: Ilya Kovalchuk on Nick Suzuki's performance
Suzuki, meanwhile, is hoping to make some more magic with his new wingers.
"They're two great players. Both of them can shoot the puck so well. We've been finding each other really well through practices and in this game. Hopefully we get to stay together and build more chemistry," mentioned Suzuki, who reached the 30-point plateau this season. "It's a good start for us."
Big weekend ahead
The Canadiens will be back in action with a pair of afternoon games on Saturday and Sunday at the Bell Centre in conjunction with Tim Hortons Family Weekend.
First up is a tilt against the Florida Panthers, before Julien's squad plays host to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Several youngsters will have the opportunity to enjoy some unique experiences after winning a variety of Fan Club contests.
To purchase tickets for the Tim Hortons Family Weekend games, click here.