Eight points for the first line
A huge chunk of the credit for the Canadiens' rebound win over the Flyers goes to the No. 1 line of Ilya Kovalchuk, Phillip Danault, and Tomas Tatar, who combined for eight points on Thursday.
Asked if the fact the Russian sniper has kept rolling the way he has is unexpected to him, Tatar was unequivocal: it isn't.
"He has 800 points; you can't really be surprised if he's scoring. If he's starting to feel better, it's a good fit for him. We know he's able to play," said Tatar of Kovalchuk, who scored two goals against the Flyers, including the game-winner. "He has those points; they are not an accident to score that many goals and assists. We're really happy we can use him this way and he's been great so far for us."
The Canadiens' bench boss echoed Tatar's sentiments, noting that he's not only producing himself but also making the players around him better.
"We're putting him in situations where he's successful. He seems capable of doing it. I have no idea what happened in Los Angeles, but he seems to be doing a good job with us," praised Claude Julien of Kovalchuk, who has seven points (3G, 4A) in as many games since arriving in Montreal. "He's averaging a point per game. He's playing good shifts and he's creating scoring chances. He's in a position to score himself. That's what we need right now."
Goaltender Carey Price has faced Kovalchuk's shot as an opponent several times in the past, and it goes without saying that he's much happier having him on his side instead.
"He's scored on me a few times. He has a good release," shared the Habs netminder. "It's tough to read and he's been finding those sweet spots."
Of course, Kovalchuk's success at the Wells Fargo Center didn't happen alone; both of his linemates enjoyed three-point nights on Thursday.
Firstly, there was Tatar, who scored Montreal's first goal of the night and added two helpers to up his team-best season totals to 17 goals, 26 assists, and 43 points, and scored his 99th, 100th, and 101st points in a Montreal uniform.
Then, there was Danault, who earned the primary assist on three of the Habs' first goals with a couple of highly intelligent feeds to Tatar and Kovalchuk sandwiching a nifty setup on Artturi Lehkonen's second-period tally.
Kovalchuk was so impressed with Danault that he had to share his feelings on him with his teammates in the room after the game.
"That's what I just talked about with Tommer [Nate Thompson]. We didn't play much against each other; I was in Russia when he started playing in the League. He's a great player, but he's also a great teammate in the locker room," Kovalchuk said of Danault, who has four points in his last two games. "He's French Canadian, so he's helping me a lot and telling me what to expect from you guys [the media] especially, so he's great. And obviously, he's a great hockey player."
KO for KK
He may have been held off the scoresheet, but Jesperi Kotkaniemi still made waves on the ice after engaging in the first fight not only of his NHL career, but of his hockey career.
The bout came after the Finnish forward took issue with a hit by Flyers defenseman Robert Hagg on Ryan Poehling, and Kotkaniemi came to his teammate's defense without hesitation.
"I think that wasn't right when he hit Poehls from behind," described Kotkaniemi.
The sophomore forward was assessed 17 minutes in penalties as a result, but Julien was perfectly fine with his decision to drop the gloves.
"I don't mind that at all, when guys step up and do those kinds of things; I think the whole team appreciated it," outlined Julien, who moved into a tie with Ron Wilson for 13th all-time with his 648th win behind the bench. "Just the time and the place and the reasons [made sense], so good for him."
Carey brings the goods once again
Price watched his team suffer a painful 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night from the bench, and was another key factor in their quick turnaround less than 24 hours later.
He made 40 saves against the Flyers - the fourth time this season he's made 40 or more - including a breakaway stop on Philadelphia winger Scott Laughton that earned him praise from his bench boss.
"He was really good tonight. That's the Carey that we know. He makes things look easy, yet they were some tough saves he had to make," remarked Julien of Price, whose record improved to 19-16-4. "When he's on top of his game, he makes all those things look easy and that breakaway was the same thing. Laughton is a pretty good player, even in shootouts, so for him to handle it the way he did... great job."
For his part, Price was just happy his squad was able to move on from a demoralizing loss and the taxing trip to Pennsylvania that followed the night before.
"We were definitely not pleased all around about last night," explained Price, whose Habs had won only two of their previous 18 games in Philadelphia before Thursday. "It's never easy coming on the road on the back-to-back, but I thought we did a great job."
The Canadiens play their final game before their bye week break on Saturday against the Vegas Golden Knights at the Bell Centre. For tickets to the game, click here.