MONTREAL – With 13 players chipping in on the scoresheet, the Habs’ Tuesday night win was the definition of a team victory.
The Canadiens rewrote the script on a night that was beginning to resemble an all too familiar scenario of late. The Islanders pushed to tie the game at three in the third frame, but the Canadiens pushed back even harder to cement their first back-to-back wins since Nov. 12.
“I think we did a really good job in the first two periods, but in the third, we got away from it a little. You have to respect teams,” said Petteri Nokelainen following the win. “Tonight, the Islanders were a team with a lot of skill and when you have a two goal lead like we did, you really need to be able to focus, back-check hard and do the little things.”
Despite logging a modest 10:49 of ice time, Nokelainen still collected two points in the night's work – none more important than his first game-winning goal as a Hab that also earned him Tuesday’s first star honors.
“Scoring that goal was a great feeling and Lars [Eller] set me up with a great pass to make that possible. He laid it down there perfectly and I just closed my eyes and tried to shoot as hard as I could,” explained Nokelainen who exploded off the bench to make the play, taking only five strides before laying into the puck and blasting a rocket past Al Montoya. “I was just coming into the play, but I could see they had a good cycle developing in the corner. They gave me the room, and I was lucky to get the puck. Hopefully we can use this victory to get on a roll and pile up some wins here.
“Lars is an extremely talented center,” added Nokelainen in reference to the sophomore forward. “Playing on his wing, you just try and get open and you know you’ll get a nice pass. Sometimes, he’ll make these big plays and just surprise you.”
Across the room, Eller was busy expressing his own relief at being able to walk away with the victory on a night when the team needed the shot of confidence, not to mention the two points.
“Confidence is a funny thing. It comes and it goes. Some games I’ll feel more confident than others. When you make a move like I tried tonight and it works – that goes towards building your confidence,” dropped Eller. “On the other hand, I’ve said it before, but creating chances is a good sign in itself – the goals will always come sooner or later.
“Lately, we’ve been having trouble hanging onto leads at home. To have been able to make it 4-3 was huge for us tonight,” continued No.81, who assisted on the game-winner before Hal Gill put the match out of reach with the first empty net goal of his career. “It meant a lot to me to be put on the ice in a situation like that. You always want to be on the ice when the game is on the line and I got that chance tonight.
“Now we have to build on it,” he finished. “We have a few guys back from injury and the atmosphere in the dressing room is really good. We believe in what we’re doing.”Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
The Numbers Game - Dec. 13, 2011
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