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Fighting back

Young Leucan members inspire Habs' 5-4 win on Saturday

by Steven Nechay @CanadiensMTL /

MONTREAL -- The Habs didn't need to look far for inspiration on Saturday night; it accompanied them onto the ice to start the game.

As part of the NHL's Hockey Fights Cancer program, the Canadiens dedicated Saturday's game to children members of Leucan, inviting six young fans -- Laurent, Alex, Charles, Benjamin, Matis and Kaleb -- to come out of the tunnel with the Habs' starting lineup in time for the anthems.

"It put things into perspective, especially with what happened last night. We lost 10-0, and as bad as that is, these kids are fighting a much bigger challenge," underlined Brendan Gallagher, who was part of the starting lineup along with Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty, Alexei Emelin, Shea Weber and Carey Price. "To see these kids with smiles on their faces gave us a boost. It was pretty exciting to have them out there with us. My little guy was just taking it all in and enjoying it -- I made him wave to the crowd a couple of times and he had some fun."Video: #HockeyFightsCancer: Young fans accompany players

Indeed, it was an emotional moment to open what would soon become a high-scoring affair.

"If anyone told you they didn't get the chills before the game, they'd be lying," added Greg Pateryn, who nullified the Flyers' only lead of the game with a first-period equalizer. "It's unfortunate what [these kids] have to go through, and it put a little extra spark into us tonight."

That spark came early and often, as five different skaters put the puck past Michal Neuvirth, including Andrei Markov, who opened the scoring just 66 seconds into the game.

And how's this for a little heart-warming history?

In a role usually reserved for coaches or captains, another young Leucan member, Simon, became the first child to reveal the starting six to the players in the dressing room.Video: #HockeyFightsCancer: Fan announces starting lineup

"It was very emotional to watch Simon announce the starting lineup to the guys. He's a fighter and a winner," shared head coach Michel Therrien, who picked up his 250th win with the Canadiens on Saturday. "He's going to fight through this, and that's kind of the message he had for our players. Every time I meet a young fan like Simon, it gets to me. J.J. [Daigneault] and I spoke about it later, and it wasn't easy for either of us."

For a Hab who hasn't had it easy on the ice lately, Tomas Plekanec picked the perfect moment to score his first of the season -- shorthanded no less.

"It was a strong moment for all of us," admitted the 34-year-old, whose father passed away from cancer. "It was a boost for us, and I'm happy we gave those kids a win."Video: PHI@MTL: Plekanec buries slap shot for SHG in 3rd

As for the night's first star, Saturday's win also came with a special dedication.

"Our former goaltending coach with the Victoriaville Tigres, Dan Fréchette, passed away a couple of months ago, and he was a really good person," said Phillip Danault, who scored his third goal of the season in the effort. "I played for him tonight."

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