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Next stop: Playoffs

Habs end regular season on a high note, drop Red Wings 3-2 in overtime

by Steven Nechay @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

DETROIT -- The Canadiens' regular season schedule ended the same way it began: with a win.

But that's just about where the similarities ended between the fresh faced Habs squad that started the season in Buffalo and the battle-tested troops who finished things off in Detroit.

Video: MTL@DET: Galchenyuk scorches one-timer for OT win

Eight regulars were out of the lineup at Joe Louis Arena -- including captain Max Pacioretty, as well as assistants Shea Weber, Andrei Markov, and Tomas Plekanec -- but the Habs nevertheless came back from a pair of one-goal deficits to pull off the overtime win on away ice.

Call it a testament to the team's character.

"It shows that we have a lot of depth. Our guys did a great job tonight. It was a good team win that ends our regular season on the right note," underlined Phillip Danault, who was the only Hab to suit up for all 82 regular season contests in 2016-17, and enjoyed a career year along the way. "We lost our last two games, so it was important for us to finish the regular season with a win. It was our last game at this arena too, so it was a special night for us with a lot of emotion. We played a good 60 minutes, and are leaving with the two points."

The depth that was on display in Detroit helped improve the Habs' regular season point total to 103 -- a 21-point improvement over 2015-16.

But more importantly, that depth will also come in handy very soon, in the coming days, weeks, and hopefully months.

"The playoffs are going to be emotional. There are going to be ups and downs, but we're a team that's pretty battle-tested thanks to the last few years," explained Brendan Gallagher, who notched an assist on Nathan Beaulieu's second-period tally. "We'll build off our past experiences, and it should make for a pretty good series."

Video: MTL@DET: Beaulieu cranks home PPG through traffic

Indeed, with the regular season now in the books, it's no longer taboo to hear Rangers talk in the locker room.

"We knew we were going to play them -- I think like a week ago -- but we still had some games left to play, so it was kind of weird to be focusing [on the task at hand] with the Rangers on the back of our minds," admitted Alex Galchenyuk, who was the night's overtime hero after potting his league-leading fifth OT goal of the season. "Now we won't think about any other team but them."

But not before at least a little R&R, right?

After all, it was just over a year ago at this time of year that the Habs were packing their bags for the summer, rather than a Round 1 date in the Big Apple.

"I think we're going to go home and enjoy this -- we're happy with the season that we've had," continued Gallagher, who will take part in his fourth-career NHL Playoffs this spring. "When we wake up tomorrow morning, that's when the preparation for New York will start. It's going to be a fun series -- being out of the playoffs last year has made us really hungry to be back in, with an opportunity to be the last team standing. The preparations will start tomorrow and we're all looking forward to it."

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