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These guys are good

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – The Ottawa Senators were simply no match for the line of Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty on Saturday night.

The Canadiens’ top trio accounted for two goals and five points, pacing Michel Therrien’s troops to a 4-1 victory in their final appearance before the Bell Centre faithful during the 2014 calendar year. With the win, the Habs concluded their season-long five-game home stand with eight out of a possible ten points.

“We don’t have anyone with designated roles. That’s what we like about our line. We know that anyone can get in on the forecheck. We all battle down low. We all can be the guy in front of the net trying to take away the goalies’ eyes. I think it’s really hard right now for the opposition to get a good read on our line knowing that we all can fill in any given spot,” explained Pacioretty, who picked up two assists on Saturday night, helping both Gallagher and Galchenyuk light the lamp behind Senators netminder Robin Lehner. “It’s going well right now. We know we can be even better and keep expanding our game, but we like how we’ve started off as a unit.”

Since the line came together on a full-time basis back on December 9 against the Vancouver Canucks, the three forwards have combined for 16 total points. While Galchenyuk has been leading the way in the goal-scoring department with four markers in his last five outings, Pacioretty has been the trio’s primary setup man, collecting six helpers during that span.

“The two 20-year-olds on the line are getting tap-ins and I’m sitting there in the corner waiting for mine, so maybe they’re waiting to wrap it up for me and give it to me for Christmas. That’s what I’m hoping,” cracked Pacioretty, who leads the Canadiens with 13 goals and 27 points during the 2014-15 campaign. “We’re all passers and we’re all shooters on our line. Obviously, I’m in a little bit of a passing streak right now. I hope to not just play on the perimeter. I hope to get my chances as well, and when the time is right, hopefully pitch in for my line with goals.”

There’s little doubt that Pacioretty will be tickling the twine again in short order, but his linemates aren’t complaining about being on the receiving end of some sweet feeds from the Canadiens’ No. 67.

“If Patch scores 40 goals, it doesn’t mean he can’t pass. I’ve known that for a long time. He can make great plays,” confirmed Galchenyuk, who extended his point streak to three games on Saturday night with another two-point effort against Ottawa. “I guess we’ve got to switch the table real soon because I owe him too much dinner right now. He’s still waiting on the ones I owe him for the game against Carolina.”

Regardless of which of the three standouts is scoring goals or registering assists, the bottom line is that they’re all finding ways to get on the score sheet and contribute to the Canadiens’ cause. That’s essentially been the case across the rest of the lineup, too, something the Habs’ bench boss touched upon in the aftermath of his squad’s 21st win of the year.

“The players know their responsibilities towards the team. They take a lot of pride in staying true to those responsibilities,” praised Therrien, whose contingent upped its record to 13-4-1 on home ice. “The line changes [dating back to December 9] are something that you have to do from time to time. Credit goes to the guys because they’ve really taken ownership of the decisions they make. They don’t ask questions and they compete. That’s what’s important.”

That was apparent once again on Saturday night, as the Canadiens fought back from an early 1-0 deficit less than three minutes into the opening frame, answering right back with a Brandon Prust equalizer before pulling ahead for good on Gallagher’s tally 7:30 into the second period.

“As a team, when we get the lead, we’re very comfortable,” offered Galchenyuk, who logged just under 17 minutes of ice time against Dave Cameron’s club. “We have a great goaltender in the back, good defensemen, and we know that if we kill the pressure and don’t change our game, it will be tough for the other team to stop us.”

Now, the Canadiens will be looking to stick to that plan when they go up against a formidable New York Islanders squad on Tuesday night in Uniondale before enjoying a well-deserved holiday break.

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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