MONTREAL – Palushaj has the luck of the Irish, words of wisdom for Leblanc and big numbers for Budaj.
Happy anniversary: The luck of the Irish was clearly on Habs’ forward, Aaron Palushaj’s side Saturday night at the Bell Centre as the rookie celebrated his first goal in the NHL. While it may not have been a highlight reel marker, Palushaj’s opening period goal did serve as a pretty good example of what can come from keeping a positive outlook and working hard. Appropriately, the goal also came in conjunction with another milestone for the 22-year-old winger.
“I think today was also my one year anniversary of playing my first NHL game in this building. It means a lot to have done it and scored this goal wearing a Montreal Canadiens’ jersey,” shared Palushaj who made his debut with the Habs last St. Patrick’s Day in a 3-2 shootout win – that time for the home team.
“I was ecstatic to get that goal – especially on my first shift of the game like that. I think a lot of goals like that are going in the NHL these days. Get pucks to the net and good things happen,” continued Palushaj who played in his 29th game the season on Saturday night. “I definitely got little more jump in my legs after that. It’s obviously tough to go 20-plus games without scoring a goal like that, but maybe things will start rolling now.”
Words of wisdom: After more than a few trips back and forth between the Montreal and the Hamilton Bulldogs over the course of the last few weeks, Louis Leblanc hasn’t had too much time to stop and take a breather. Not having found the back of the net for a stretch of time, Leblanc got himself back onto the goal column of the scoresheet at the beginning of Saturday night’s third period, to tie the game 2-2.
“It definitely felt good. It had been a little while that I hadn’t scored a goal. When I went back down to Hamilton, I hadn’t scored there either and there were a lot of trips between cities in the middle. Like I said, it definitely felt good,” admitted Leblanc, after not having found the back of the net since February 7th against the Penguins.
“I had a tough start tonight, but [Andrei] Markov came over and spoke with me at one point during the game,” added the 21-year-old forward. “He told me to relax, that I was good player and to take a second or two more to make my plays. Everything picked up for me after that.”
Season high: Despite falling 3-2 to the Islanders by way of a six-round shootout, Peter Budaj still managed to put up some of the best numbers of his season. Being a large part of the reason the game ended as close as it did, Budaj would finish his night stopping 36 of the 38 pucks sent his way over 65 minutes of play – and adding an assist to boot.
“I felt pretty good today. I was seeing the puck pretty well. They were throwing a lot of pucks on net; it can be either good or bad for a goalie. I was able to see the puck, and the guys were doing a great job to clear the stuff in front of the net,” explained Budaj of his night’s work. “I just try to play as best as I can to help the team win some hockey games. Obviously I would like get some starts but it’s the coach’s decision. I can control my work ethic and the way I play and the way I support the team.”
Following Saturday night's game, defenseman Frederic St-Denis was reassigned by the Canadiens to the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.