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Markov and Desharnais solid in return to action, Pacioretty picks up hat trick as Habs beat Sabres 5-2

by Steven Nechay CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

MONTREAL -- Andrei Markov and David Desharnais wasted no time getting back into the groove of things on Tuesday.

Following a pair of respective 19- and 24-game absences dating back to December, both Habs picked up points in their return from injury as the Canadiens beat the Sabres 5-2.

"We knew that when they were coming back, they would be ready to go at 100%. By talking to them, it was obvious they were itching to get out there. Davey played great and that was vintage Marky on the [assist to Paul Byron] -- as soon as he got it, I knew he was sliding it over," shared captain Max Pacioretty, who added three goals of his own to the tally. "It's a lot of fun, because we were missing core guys who have fought with us for the last couple of years, and getting them back gave us a boost. It was really nice to see them contribute and get on the scoresheet."

Video: BUF@MTL: Byron finishes tic-tac-toe passing play

While Markov wowed fans with his vision on a terrific pass to Byron, Desharnais' contribution on the night just happened to be the game-winner.

It was also just what the doctor ordered to shake off any lingering rust in the forward's first game back since suffering a knee injury nearly two months ago, on December 6 in St. Louis.

"In the first period I felt like I lost the puck a couple of times when I could have had a breakaway or made plays that are usually pretty easy to make," admitted the 30-year-old, who fired two shots on goal over 14:59 of ice time. "After the goal, I felt good and got my confidence back."

TRIPLE TROUBLE

Pacioretty lived up to his reputation as an elite sniper on Tuesday, taking just three shots to notch his second hat trick this season -- the sixth of his career.

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: �� #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/tiOX6s7h5Q

But he couldn't have done it without linemates Phillip Danault and Alexander Radulov, who both teamed up to pick up assists on each of the captain's first two markers.

"I got a lot of help from my linemates, they made it easy for me. I thought as a line, we played really well. We were dangerous on pretty much every shift. When our line is going the right way, we're very very dangerous," underlined the night's first star, who finished a plus-3 over 16:17 of ice time. "Every play kind of starts with our centerman Phil -- he has to skate a lot -- but he's always making the good first play. Then when we get the puck to Rads, with time and space, he's looking to make a play. I'm just very fortunate and happy to play with two players like that."

Video: BUF@BUF: Pacioretty notches hatty in 5-2 victory

With the hat trick, Pacioretty improved his team goal lead to 24 -- ten more than Paul Byron -- while Radulov now sits 7 assists clear of Markov to lead the team in helpers with 27.

RUSSIAN CONNECTION

In his return to action against the Sabres, Markov was paired with Habs newcomer and fellow countryman Nikita Nesterov on the blue line.

The 23-year-old made his Habs debut after being acquired on Thursday, and did not disappoint the home crowd.

Nor his teammates for that matter.

"He played pretty good. I tried to keep talking with him on and off the ice," acknowledged Markov, as Nesterov finished the night a plus-2 while being eased into the action with 14:21 of ice time. "I've known him for a long time and he's always been a good player. He's dynamic and he plays with a lot of passion."

But while the veteran blueliner was impressed his partner's play, the former Lightning defender was simply awestruck by the Bell Centre atmosphere.

"It was so great. We have the best fans in the League here."

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