MONTREAL - Word on the street was the Habs had a struggling power play, but that’s news to Sergei Gonchar.
While the Canadiens may have gone 0-for-27 with the man advantage over a ten-game span leading up to the trade which sent Travis Moen to Dallas in exchange for Gonchar on Tuesday, the Habs have shown no signs of that former power play futility since the special teams stalwart first suited up for his new team on Thursday.
Following a 6-3 win against the Flyers on Saturday bolstered by a trio of special teams markers – the first time the Canadiens scored three goals with the man advantage since March 1, 2012 – the 40-year-old blue liner is still waiting to see a power play that needs sparking at all.
“I don’t know what things were like here before, but it seems like we already have all the tools we need,” offered Gonchar, who picked up his 800th career NHL point opposite Philadelphia with an assist on Dale Weise’s first even-strength goal of the night. “We have good players, we’re moving the puck well and helping each other out, which is a big part of it. Now we just need to keep doing so. We have good chemistry here and I’m happy to be a part of the team.”
If fans were startled to see the Canadiens’ special teams fortunes turn around quite so quickly – already accounting for four goals in just two games with Gonchar in the lineup – the opposite is true for those who have seen firsthand what the Russian defenseman is capable of.
“I can’t say it surprises me having coached him for three seasons [in Pittsburgh]. He’s confident and appreciated here, but most of all he brings results,” acknowledged head coach Michel Therrien of his reacquainted player, who has managed to impress on special teams with his smart play even without a power play point.
“He’s making a quick impact on our club and I’m really pleased with the way Sergei is playing. He’s calm with the puck, his vision is good, and so is his chemistry on the ice with Andrei Markov and the David Desharnais line. Throughout his career he’s made a living on the power play and he’s just doing more of the same for us now,” noted the Habs bench boss of the veteran rearguard who was on the ice for two of the Canadiens’ three power play goals on Saturday.
With all the pieces in place to put the power back into Montreal’s power play, the evening’s first star insists the missing solution was a simple one.
“We were more patient, we controlled the puck better, and we played a smarter game with more confidence. When you’re able to do all of those things, that’s when good things happen.” explained P.-A. Parenteau, who was a +1 on the night with a pair of goals against the Flyers. “I think we played a good game tonight. It was a nice group effort once again, which has been the key for us over the last five games. It was a fun game to be a part of.”
Scoring two goals late in the third period to seal the win after the Flyers pulled within one on a pair of separate occasions, Weise meanwhile maintains that the outcome was never in question.
“I don’t think we were losing control. It’s just uncharted territory for us to play with a lead, so we were trying to find our way out there tonight,” cracked the 26-year-old forward after the Habs scored the game's first goal for just the sixth time this season. “Full marks go out to our team. That was a big shift for us, a big goal, and a great effort from everybody tonight.”
Marking the first two-goal outing of his career, Weise nevertheless stressed the importance of team results ahead of personal accolades.
“It feels good, but I think our team is playing well and that feels even better. It’s nice to have personal success, but it’s nicer for the whole team to be scoring goals and having success on the power play,” confirmed Weise, who was one of eight Habs skaters to score two-plus points each for the first time since April 9, 1994. “I think the whole team should feel good about our game.”
Now getting set to wrap up the club's second of four two-game sets this month, the Habs will look to carry Saturday's momentum into Detroit on Sunday.
“Any time you have a back-to-back it’s a tough scenario," concluded Weise. "It’s a good team with a tough building to play in, so we’ll enjoy this one for a little bit longer and then get on the plane and focus on the next one.”
Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com
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