DENVER - Lucas Lessio impressed in his first full game, Jacob De La Rose looked comfortable down the middle, and Michel Therrien found a solid new line combo in Denver.
LUCAS MAKES HIS MARK: After leaving Philly with a lower body injury just 6:43 into his Habs debut on Feb. 2, Lucas Lessio returned to action against the Avalanche and made his presence felt from his opening shift. Registering two shots on goal and attempting two others in his 11:21 of ice time, Lessio also dished out two hits while creating plenty of energy alongside Torrey Mitchell and Devante Smith-Pelly on the team’s fourth line.
“Lucas was very intense. He was in hard on the forecheck and showed a lot of good things for a young player,” said head coach Michel Therrien in his evaluation of the 23-year-old winger.
While he was pleased overall with his performance against the Avs, Lessio is already looking forward to registering another first as a member of the Canadiens: his first win.
“Personally, I thought I played pretty well and did my job pretty well, but it’s not as nice when the team loses,” described Lessio, who arrived in Montreal in a trade from the Coyotes on December 15. “I really liked our effort tonight. It obviously sucks that we ended up losing because we did a lot of good things. We have to bounce back. We have another game on Friday.”
JACOB IN THE MIDDLE: With David Desharnais out with a lower body injury, Therrien called on 20-year-old forward Jacob De La Rose to fill the void in the middle. The rookie Swede responded by winning 53 percent of his draws while also chipping in with three shots in his heaviest workload of the campaign.
“It was a good test for Jacob playing center,” confirmed Therrien, who also gave his young pivot some shorthanded action against the Avalanche. “He won some big faceoffs and seemed to be very comfortable in that role. That’s good news for us.”
LIKE A GLOVE: Despite having shared a dressing room since 2010, Lars Eller and Max Pacioretty have rarely been on the ice together at even strength over the last six seasons. That changed on Wednesday night in Colorado, with Therrien opting to throw the two veterans together on a line with Sven Andrighetto in the hopes of generating some offense. It didn’t take long for the coach’s decision to pay off, with Andrighetto crashing in on the forecheck on their seventh even-strength shift of the night to get the puck to Pacioretty, who fed a perfect pass to Eller in the slot to give the Habs a 2-1 lead.
“I felt good with Max and Sven. It was a tough game. There were a lot of broken plays in the third, but there were some encouraging things in the second period. I think we can build on this,” said Eller, whose line combined for nine of the team’s 34 shots on the night. “Hopefully we can build some more chemistry together back home. I think it was a step in the right direction for us as a team compared to last game in Phoenix, for sure. We played concentrated for 58 minutes, then one mistake and we pay for it. We worked hard for 58 minutes and it’s a disappointing outcome.”
CREASE CRASHER: Having been accused of selling a call that not only got a Jarome Iginla goal disallowed, but also sent the Avs assistant captain to the penalty box late in the second period, Habs netminder Ben Scrivens explained the play from his side of the blue paint.
“It’s tough. I understand why they’re upset. It’s a one-timer from the point and I’m looking around the screen. If the puck comes straight in on me, I’m tight and I’ve got more stability,” described Scrivens, who saw the Erik Johnson shot ricochet off the back board to Iginla in front of the net. “If you watch the replay, the puck doesn’t hit the net. It’s going wide, so I have to spread right out. You try to be as spread as you can and have someone [knock you]. It doesn’t take a lot to throw you back. I don’t think I’m that type of guy. I didn’t think I embellished it. Once the rebound came off the back boards, I was going down to try to get a glove up. I personally thought it was the right call, but that’s obviously me and I’m biased.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
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