COLUMBUS – Jacob De La Rose has been nothing short of outstanding since making his NHL debut in early February.
On Thursday night, the 19-year-old was finally rewarded for all of his hard work, tallying not only his first career NHL goal, but lighting the lamp a second time with an empty-netter to pace the Canadiens to their third straight victory – a 5-2 win over the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. It was the third time in as many games that the Canadiens had bested Columbus this season, enabling them to complete the series sweep.
“It’s a great feeling. I’ve been waiting for it,” offered De La Rose, who accomplished the feat in his 12th career NHL game, tipping a Brandon Prust shot past Blue Jackets netminder Curtis McElhinney at the 5:33 mark of the third period for the milestone marker that ultimately put the game out of reach. “I had no idea the puck went in. I was just trying to get a stick on it. I didn’t know at first. But, I was pretty sure it was my goal. I knew I touched something. I was hoping it was the puck. It would’ve been awkward otherwise.”
If De La Rose was all smiles in the aftermath of the Canadiens’ 40th victory of the season, so were his teammates, who were pleased to see a talented young gun tickle the twine on two occasions in the Buckeye State.
“It was a lot of fun. I think we played pretty well offensively. There were a couple too many turnovers, but it was good to see the boys make plays and get rewarded, especially guys like Rosie,” praised Max Pacioretty, who hit the 30-goal plateau for the third time in his career on Thursday night, scoring his team-leading eighth game-winning goal of the year. “It’s a lot of fun when guys like that get their first goal. They definitely get some momentum off of that.”
Like Pacioretty, P.K. Subban was ecstatic to see De La Rose get things going offensively at a time of year when every game is of critical importance and valuable points are still very much up for grabs.
“I’m happy for him. He’s been playing good hockey. He could’ve had it a couple of games ago, but for it to come like this, in such a meaningful game, is really something. He’s playing well. He’s well-liked in the room. He’s a good-looking guy. It’s great to see him have a two-goal night,” offered Subban, who registered his 10th multi-point game of the 2014-15 campaign, chipping in with a goal and two assists. “After he scores, he’s just so pretty that he doesn’t even have to celebrate. He just has to smile. He’s just a good-looking guy.”
It wasn’t only De La Rose’s goal-scoring ability that really stood out against Todd Richards’ contingent, but his penchant for contributing in a few other distinct areas of the game, too.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence. He’s a very responsible player. He’s responsible in his positioning when he doesn’t have the puck and when he has it as well. He doesn’t force plays. He always makes good decisions when he has puck possession. We’re really happy with a young player his age. Usually, youngsters have a tendency to force plays and they get themselves in trouble. When you watch him play, though, he never gets into trouble,” offered head coach Michel Therrien, who watched as
De La Rose delivered another standout two-way game that included him racking up a plus-2 differential and three blocked shots while logging 14:19 of ice time. “It’s always good to see a young guy like Jacob score not only his first goal, but his second as well. Those goals are going to give him even more confidence. I really liked what I saw from him.”
That’s high praise coming from a veteran bench boss, who certainly knows just how valuable a piece of the puzzle De La Rose might just prove to be for his hockey club down the stretch and well into the future.
“I’m just happy with my game. It means a lot,” concluded De La Rose. “I worked hard and I did everything I could for the team.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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