EDMONTON – When Max Pacioretty suffered a potentially career-ending injury exactly 365 days ago, he vowed he would come back better than ever. He’s been proving himself right ever since.
On March 8, 2011, Pacioretty was sent flying head-first into a Bell Centre stanchion, leaving the then-23-year-old winger with a fractured vertebrae and questions about whether or not he would ever play again. He responded by bouncing back in a big way, leading the Canadiens in scoring in 2011-12 while setting career-highs across the board.
That date will forever be one the young power forward would like to forget, but he still managed to commemorate the dubious anniversary in fitting fashion.
“To be honest, I actually had no idea today was the date,” admitted Pacioretty, who had two goals and an assist in Thursday night’s win. “Someone mentioned it to me this afternoon and it was in my mind a little bit while I was napping but I just tried not to think about it. I’m kind of a head case so I tried to deflect the questions about it. I just hate thinking about that day and I hate talking about that day, but once the game was over I’m fine talking about it now.”
Instead of dwelling on the past, Pacioretty used Thursday’s game to create history, breaking Brian Gionta’s team record for most goals in a season by a U.S.-born player when he fired his 30th goal of the year into an empty net.
“I thanked [P.K. Subban] a couple of times. I was yelling in his ear down the ice to give it to me,” joked Pacioretty, who took the gift from Subban and fired it into the open net for the insurance marker. “He knew what was on the line – obviously I owe that one to him.”
For his part, Subban is still waiting to find out exactly how much his sharp-shooting teammate owes him for helping him reach the 30-goal plateau.
“I’m happy that I could help him get that. I don’t know if that means I get a dinner from him or something like that,” cracked Subban, who finished with three points of his own against the Oilers. “I’m really happy for him. For a guy who’s gone through so much already in his career with his neck injury, it’s inspirational to see him be able to do that for our hockey club this year.”
Pacioretty has spent the past 365 days trying to make sure people were talking about him because of his play, not his injury. It’s amazing what a difference a year can make.
“It’s tough to say I was really thinking this far ahead back then. I say I like to take things one day at a time and those aren’t just words; that’s really what I do. Every day is a new day and I try to get better at hockey every day. Getting 30 goals is great but I still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do.
“It’s exciting, but I keep saying it’s a team sport,” added Pacioretty. “I have to give a lot of credit and thanks to my linemates and my teammates because they’ve helped me out a lot this year.”
Doling out credit to his teammates as often as he’s set them up for goals this season, it’s no surprise the most important highlight of the night for Pacioretty had nothing to do with his own stats on the scoresheet.
“It’s a lot more rewarding with the way our team played tonight,” he stressed. “Everyone was going and we played the right way. When we win like that it’s a lot of fun.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
The Numbers Game - Mar. 8, 2012
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