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Character and determination

The Canadiens wrapped up their set of seven straight road contests on Saturday night with their third straight victory

by Matt Cudzinowski @canadiensmtl /

TORONTO - The Canadiens certainly didn't let the injury bug get the best of them on their seven-game road swing, which finally came to a close on Saturday night.

With regulars aplenty on the sidelines and youngsters assuming key spots in their absence, Michel Therrien's troops collected 10 out of a possible 14 points away from the friendly confines of the Bell Centre on a trek that began all the way back on December 23 in Ohio.

And, things couldn't have come to a better conclusion at the Air Canada Centre as the Canadiens rattled off their third consecutive victory, besting the Maple Leafs 5-3 in their own barn. It marked the 13th straight time that they'd managed to beat their Original Six rivals, so it's safe to say that they've had Toronto's number for quite some time.

"When you look at the trip on the whole, we have to be satisfied. We lost that first game in Columbus, but we still played a good game. That set the tone for the trip," said Therrien, who registered his 400th win behind an NHL bench on Saturday night, becoming the 35th head coach in NHL history to accomplish the feat. "Sometimes, it isn't always the result that's important, it's the way that you go about your business and the way you play. We played an excellent game against a team that's been rolling lately."

On this particular night, every single one of Therrien's charges stepped up to the plate in order to finish the trip on an exceptionally positive note. 

After captain Max Pacioretty lit the lamp just 20 seconds into the opening frame with his 19th goal of the year - and extended his goal-scoring streak to three straight games in the process - Artturi Lehkonen beat Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen 3:27 later to put the Canadiens in the driver's seat early.

While Mike Babcock's contingent struck back to tie things up, Nikita Scherbak's power play strike with 0.9 seconds remaining in the period afforded the Canadiens the opportunity to head to the locker room up by a goal.

Simply put, the 21-year-old Russian winger couldn't have asked for a better way to mark his NHL debut.

"I couldn't even dream about that. Honestly, I only dreamed to step on the ice in my first NHL game, and I scored a goal. It's amazing," said Scherbak, who was called up on Thursday evening from the AHL's St. John's IceCaps. "It felt good [being out there]. I was a little bit nervous in the first period, but after that I got more confident. I think the pace was pretty good. Toronto is a pretty fast team. We kept the pace for 60 minutes with them. It was good."

Scherbak's good friend Michael McCarron also played an important role in helping the Canadiens secure their 25th win of the year, factoring in on the scoresheet with the fifth goal of the night - his first of the year with the big club - just 3:51 into the third period.

McCarron also dropped the gloves with Leafs tough guy Matt Martin when things got a little bit heated between the two clubs during the middle frame, demonstrating a willingness to go toe-to-toe with anyone who tries to push his teammates around.

"We weren't going to back down. We came out and played hard. We knew that they played [the night before] and we wanted to jump on them early and I think that's what we did," said McCarron, who continues to prove his worth to the Canadiens' brass with every outing. "It's good knowing that [even if] we have some of our top guys out, that we're continuing to get points. That's what we're here for and that's what we've got to continue to do and work hard."

Likewise, Shea Weber wasn't about to let Maple Leafs yougster Zach Hyman get away with running Carey Price at one point during the contest. The veteran rearguard made sure to let Hyman know that behavior of that sort won't be tolerated.

"I think everybody in here would do that for both of our goalies. We want to make sure that we take care of them. They're a big part of our team," said Weber, who collected his 15th and 16th assists of the season on Saturday night. "If anyone gets hit in here, guys are going to step up for them. We're a tight team. We stand up for one another."

That was just one of many things that impressed Therrien about his group on Saturday night.

"The guys showed up to play, but they also showed up physically, too. They all appreciated the fact that everyone was willing to go to war," concluded Therrien, whose squad will be back in action on Monday night at home against the Washington Capitals. "The team showed great work ethic and great determination. It takes a lot of character to continue fighting through all of these injuries. They did a remarkable job."

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