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Power performer

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – When Alex Galchenyuk is on his game, the chances of shutting him down are slim to none. The Red Wings learned that lesson the hard way on Tuesday night.

With the Canadiens down 1-0 late in the third period, the 20-year-old forward won a critical one-on-one battle with Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey down low, before beating goaltender Jimmy Howard on a wraparound to send the game to overtime. That set the stage for David Desharnais’ eventual game-winner 56 seconds into the extra frame, lifting Michel Therrien’s troops to a 2-1 win at the Bell Centre.

In the aftermath of the Canadiens’ third straight victory, one that secured the team’s best start to a season since the 1977-78 campaign, Therrien was quick to praise his team’s overall resiliency, while giving Galchenyuk his due for a job well done.

“He’s playing well. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. For a young player, he’s been making great progress over the last few years since joining us at the age of 18. He managed to score a big goal. It’s all because of his competitive spirit. He really competed to score that goal. We’re really satisfied with his play,” offered the Habs’ bench boss, who watched as the three-year NHL veteran registered his third goal of the season and chipped in with four shots on goal and three hits while logging 16:12 of ice time.

“Waging battles like those [with Quincey] comes with confidence. That comes with maturity. Galchenyuk competes really hard. But, that’s the reason why he scored that goal because he competes,” added Therrien. “His battle level is there. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. There’s good chemistry with him, Plekanec and Parenteau. The kid’s got character. That’s what we like about him.”

While Galchenyuk was pleased to come up big late in regulation time on Tuesday night, the Milwaukee, WI native stressed the fact that the Canadiens’ sixth victory of the season was ultimately a direct result of sticking together as a cohesive unit and never letting up against a talented contingent that entered the tilt seeking its third consecutive win, too.

“We have good leaders on this team. We’re a great character team. We always believe in ourselves. It was a pretty chippy game. It was real tight and we couldn’t really get all of the chances we wanted. We started playing our game in the third period. We were going to the net more. That’s what we have to do to be successful, and that’s what we hope to continue doing in future games,” stressed Galchenyuk, who now ranks second on the Canadiens with seven points on the season. “I don’t really try to pay attention to who I’m battling. My job was to win most of those battles. That’s what I did in the end, and luckily I put it in.”

In P.K. Subban’s eyes, Galchenyuk’s penchant for lighting the lamp isn’t about luck at all. The 2013 Norris Trophy winner is adamant that the former third-overall selection continues to exhibit the qualities that will make him a perennial scoring threat for years to come.

“Everyone’s got to win their one-on-one battles out there. It’s not just Chucky on Kyle Quincey. That’s how you win hockey games. Chucky did a good job of sticking with it. He’s a skilled player. It’s not easy when guys are in your face like that. That’s what we need. That’s what championship teams do. Their skilled players still battle through adversity,” explained Subban, who picked up his second assist of the season on Desharnais’ tally in the extra frame. “Skilled players show the tenacity that Galchenyuk showed against Detroit. He scored that goal, and he deserved to score it.”

And, in a game in which the Canadiens outshot, outhit and generally outmaneuvered their Atlantic Division rivals, they deserved to walk away with another two big points in the standings.

“We’ve got a group of guys that always wants to get better. They’ve got exemplary work ethic. It’s been there since training camp. It’s a group that wants to improve and wants to work. They’re not scared of any challenge. They deserve their success because of their motivation to perform,” concluded Therrien, whose club now sits atop the league with 12 points. “We knew we were playing a team that didn’t give very much, but we got 36 shots and we got our chances. Finally, with our hard work, we got some goals. I know that we’re heading in the right direction.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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