MONTREAL - Here are a few key storylines from Saturday night's 5-4 shootout victory over the Vegas Golden Knights at the Bell Centre.
'We never said that we gave up'
The Canadiens were cruising along late in the third period when things took a turn for the worse.
Goals by Max Pacioretty (18:02) and Reilly Smith (19:52) sent the game to overtime, and it appeared that Claude Julien's contingent might be heading into their bye week with some serious regret.
But instead of getting down on themselves, the Habs fought back again. After dominating the extra frame, Ilya Kovalchuk and Tomas Tatar scored in the shootout to send the fans home happy.
It was their fourth win in the last five games, which is just another indicator that this group isn't going down without a fight.
"We never said that we gave up. I think the message stays the same. We're going to battle until the end and until we're told that it isn't possible anymore," stated Julien, during his postgame press conference. "They're athletes paid to do a job, and you always play the best hockey you can. That's what we're trying to do."
The Canadiens don't play again until Monday, January 27th when they host the Washington Capitals, so there's plenty of time to rest up for a big push with 32 games left on the schedule.
No doubt coming away victorious against Peter DeBoer's squad will make the time off all the more enjoyable and maintain that positive mindset going forward.
According to Max Domi, there's a lot to be excited about right now.
"A little reset here for the mental side of things, and also the physical side of things, and now it's time to hunt. We believe in each other as a group, and we want to win some hockey games," said Domi, referencing the motivation level inside the locker room to keep on climbing up the Eastern Conference standings. "We proved it time and time again and we know we can do it. We've just got to find ways to put the right foot forward here."
Kovalchuk continued to impress on Saturday night, lighting the lamp for the first time in front of the Bell Centre faithful in the first period.
It was his fourth goal in eight games since joining the Canadiens two weeks ago as a free agent.
And he certainly felt the love from the fans after putting the puck past Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
"It's nice to score the first goal in front of that crowd with all those guys. The people, they support us. It's an unbelievable hockey city," praised Kovalchuk, who has eight points (4g, 4a) with Montreal already. "I never played in any environment like that. I appreciate everything. We're going to keep going and we're going to keep pushing."
Given the way the team is playing - and the way he's rolling along - you could easily understand why he isn't necessarily a supporter of the lengthy bye week break.
Nevertheless, he plans on taking full advantage of it.
"I don't need that break, but I'll take it," joked Kovalchuk, who is heading to sunny Southern California to recharge his batteries. "I'll spend a little time with my family, take two days off, and then I'm going to skate. My coach is coming to LA, so I'll be ready to go when we come back."
Video: Ilya Kovalchuk on his success with the Canadiens
And it actually won't be long before he's joined in Montreal by his loved ones.
"My kids are coming here on February 5th. They'll enjoy the cold weather and I'm going to show them around," said Kovalchuk, a father of four. "They'll see the Skills Competition, too, so they can hang out with the guys in the locker room. That'll be very nice."
Quite the night for Nick
Nick Cousins recorded the third multi-goal game of his NHL career on Saturday night.
He scored once in the first period, snapping a 15-game goal drought in the process, before adding another marker in the third.
They were his sixth and seventh goals of the season, and Julien was pleased to see the fourth line deliver the goods.
"They're producing, and that's kind of what you need in the situation we're in. Anytime you can spread out the scoring is helpful. When your fourth line scores a couple of goals, you should expect to win," said Julien, citing the trio consisting of Cousins, Nate Thompson and Dale Weise. "They're experienced guys. They're doing good work together. They keep things simple. The goals were the result of guys going to the net, and they were rewarded."
The last time Cousins accomplished the feat was on February 8, 2018 when he was still a member of the Arizona Coyotes.