MONTREAL – Practice really did make perfect for the Canadiens on Saturday.
Just eight hours after fine-tuning the power play during a rare morning skate at the Bell Centre, the Habs put what they practiced into practice on that very same ice surface against the visiting Red Wings.
Having previously capitalized on just two of their 21 opportunities with the man advantage over the first five games of the season, the Habs doubled their special teams totals against Detroit with a pair of power play goals on Saturday night.
“The power play was very good tonight. We scored two big goals thanks to it,” admitted head coach Michel Therrien, who saw both the equalizer and game-winner come from a special teams unit that went two-for-five against the Wings. “We had a chance to work on things this morning, and it was nice to get back to basics. Drawing up Xs and Os is one thing, but actually getting to practice them is another. The guys applied everything we had discussed this morning -- attacking the net and putting shots on goal -- and the result was the one we were looking for.”
Indeed, the Habs have now won six in a row to set yet another mark for the best start to a season in franchise history, and remain the only undefeated team in the NHL. But chances are, not even Therrien could have expected to what degree his players would take ‘attacking the net’ to heart.
“It obviously wasn’t the prettiest of goals, but I’ll certainly take it,” acknowledged Brendan Gallagher, who ended up in the back of the net alongside his second-period equalizer, after deflecting a shot past Petr Mrazek off his skate from up close. “Any time you can contribute it’s nice, and even though it wasn’t the way we drew it up, getting a power play goal so soon after practicing it this morning was pretty cool.”
But then again, maybe that’s exactly the kind of goal you expect to score when you have Brendan Gallagher on your side.
“I spoke to him after the second period and I told him ‘only you could have scored that goal’,” cracked Alex Galchenyuk, who picked up an assist in the outing and was named the night’s second star. “It’s good. He never quits, and it was a real character goal.”
Same story from Jeff Petry, who scored the night’s other power play marker, albeit with a more traditional blast from the blue line.
“I’ll never get tired of seeing those kinds of goals. We’ll get 20 of them a year from him and they never get old,” dished the night’s first star, whose first goal of the year also proved to be the game-winner. “He’s the guy who goes to those hard areas and gets those greasy goals. He works hard for them, so it’s good to see him rewarded.”
As impressive as the goals that came with the man advantage however, were those that came without it, given the circumstances.
Locked in a tight game and up by one with 13:28 to go in the third, rather than nursing the lead and counting on Carey, the Habs put on a shooting gallery in the final frame, taking 20 shots to Detroit’s five.
“The coaches always tell us not to wait, but to be aggressive,” underlined Galchenyuk, who chipped in with three shots of his own over 15:07 of ice time. “We don’t sit back and give teams a chance to get back in the game. Whether we’re winning or losing this year, we’re always pushing.”
That work ethic has proven to be a difference maker so far in 2015-16.
“We got some bounces tonight, and it just proves that when you do good things good things happen. We were maybe a little sluggish at the start, but it’s good that we’re picking things up as the game goes on,” concluded captain Max Pacioretty, who saw his team trail for the first time this season before eventually pulling out the win. “We’re inspired to keep getting better even with this great start.”
Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com
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