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NYI@MTL: Bright spots aplenty

From Nikita Scherbak to Mike Reilly to Antti Niemi, there was a lot to like about Wednesday night's win over the Islanders

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

MONTREAL - Before hitting the road for six straight games, the Canadiens were hoping to close out their four-game homestand on a winning note.

Mission accomplished, as Claude Julien's troops bested the New York Islanders 3-1 at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night on the strength of three unanswered goals after falling behind early.

There were a lot of things to like about the way the Canadiens went about their business in their final appearance in front of their fans until March 13.

Up front, Nikita Scherbak continued to impress by notching his second goal of the season and his first career tally on home ice.

Scherbak, who was recalled by the big club on Monday from the AHL's Laval Rocket, attributes his success so far this season to important changes both on and off the ice.

"I'm just trying to play a 200-foot game, not just be an offensive guy who plays with the puck. I'm trying to put a lot of attention on my play without the puck, to be in a position to support the play. Small details," explained Scherbak, who now has four points in 10 games with the Canadiens this year. "Outside of hockey, I'm getting some sleep, trying to eat healthy stuff. That's probably the biggest thing."

Video: NYI@MTL: Scherbak buries pass from Gallagher

The 22-year-old Russian winger definitely has a fan in Jonathan Drouin.

"He's a natural talent with the puck. He skates well and he's capable of creating scoring chances. He doesn't need anyone to create those chances for him," praised Drouin, who also lit the lamp on Wednesday night, notching his 10th goal of the season - which also proved to be the game-winner. "With time, he'll be even better."

On the back end, Mike Reilly impressed in his Habs debut after being acquired from the Minnesota Wild at the trade deadline on Monday.

"It felt good," said Reilly, whose mother, Lisa, was in attendance to watch the 24-year-old rearguard play his first game in a Habs uniform. "I just tried to get my feet under me off the hop and then tried to go out there and play, which was nice. I feel like I got in a rhythm."

As did Julien, who gave the University of Minnesota grad every opportunity to get comfortable playing with his new teammates.

"I liked his work. He played well for a guy who was playing his first game with us. He was pretty at ease. I liked his decisions with the puck. He moves well. He has good mobility," mentioned Julien, whose squad earned six out of a possible eight points over the last four outings. "We're better on the defensive side of things with the additions of Reilly and Juulsen. We've got a better balance of players who are good defensively, so we're moving the puck a lot better and we're spending less time in our own zone." 

Video: Claude Julien's postgame press conference vs. NYI

That, of course, is a big help for the Canadiens' goaltenders, including Antti Niemi, who turned aside 27 of 28 shots against to pick up the win.

"I felt good in practice and games for the last little while. I just want to keep it going," said Niemi, on his stellar performance that earned him first star honors. "I think overall just being here for a longer time has helped me get comfortable, and working with Stephane Waite and all the players, too."

Video: NYI@MTL: Niemi turns away Bailey, Lee in front

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