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ANA@MTL: Three for third

With Jesperi Kotkaniemi tallying in his third straight game, the Habs score three times in the first to hold onto third in the Atlantic on Tuesday against Anaheim

by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL /

MONTREAL - What do you call it when you beat your win total from last season, get your goalie a sixth win in a row, and set a new franchise record?

Why, a regular night at the Bell Centre, that's what.

The Canadiens were wary of an Anaheim Ducks team that had allowed 15 goals in their past two games, knowing full well that a team in that position could come out of nowhere to bite them. But when Brendan Gallagher opened the scoring to hit the 20-goal mark and get the ball rolling, the Habs kept up the pressure and ensured there was no looking back.

Video: ANA@MTL: Gallagher opens scoring with wrister

Not that he was taking much credit for the feat.

"You're playing with some good players; they're finding you," said Gallagher, who skated on a line with Phillip Danault and Jonathan Drouin. "On both goals, Phil did a good job forechecking and Drou makes plays, so my job was pretty easy. It's nice to put it in, get off to a start, get the lead, and to be able to hold onto it was nice for us."

Before Gallagher would score his 21st of the season later in the period, a young man by the name of Jesperi Kotkaniemi decided that he liked the feel of scoring in consecutive games - which he did for the first time of his young career over the weekend - and set a new franchise record by becoming the first 18-year-old in Canadiens history to score in three straight contests.

Video: ANA@MTL: Kotkaniemi puts home rebound

The Finnish rookie affirmed that the Habs' long break last week did him a lot of good, and attributed his increased offensive output to a boost in confidence that's gotten him to throw the puck on net more often.

"I've tried to shoot more," shared Kotkaniemi, whose 26 points (9G, 17A) are tied for third-most among NHL rookies this season. "I've noticed that it's going well now."

With the pair of Gallagher goals sandwiching KK's momentous marker, the Canadiens headed to the room up by three after 20, but took their feet off the gas in the second before cranking things up again in the third to finish things off. Phillip Danault would sneak one by Ducks backstop Chad Johnson in the final frame to make it 4-1 after Ryan Getzlaf had broken Carey Price's shutout bid in the second.

Video: ANA@MTL: Danault sneaks one home at the doorstep

Drouin, who earned assists on every goal on Tuesday except for Kotkaniemi's, believes that the Canadiens did what they set out to do, and preyed on a team that's been having a rough go of it lately and may have been the victim of a particularly difficult stretch in their schedule.

"We took advantage of their back-to-back. Sometimes, it's harder than other nights. The way we played in the first period, with our speed, and especially because they played last night," described the 23-year-old, who enjoyed his second three-point night of the season. "Our game plan was to get out early, to try to get the first goal, continue looking for the second. When you go to the room up 3-0, you're happy."

On a night like this, the Canadiens are certainly happy with where they're at. The win over the Ducks was Montreal's 30th of the season, one more than last year, and it was a sixth straight victory for goaltender Carey Price. What's more, the Habs get to hang onto third place in the Atlantic Division another day.

But head coach Claude Julien is trying not to let anyone get too far ahead of themselves despite his team's good fortunes thus far in 2018-19.

"Right now, we're just grinding through the season, which is what we want to do. We want to stay in the battle and stay in the present. You never want to get too high, you never want to get too low. That's what we're doing right now. Nobody is overly excited, but we like the direction we're going in," he concluded. "We're allowed to be happy with what we've accomplished so far, as long as we're not satisfied."

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