MONTREAL – With eight points in his last four games, it’s safe to say Tomas Plekanec is back on track.
After putting up four points over the weekend against Edmonton, Plekanec put up three more points in a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre, pacing the Canadiens to their third straight victory – and their first regular season win over the Florida-based franchise on Quebec soil since April 18, 2013. The Czech centerman scored his 11th and 12th goals of the year on Tuesday night, and also chipped in with his 30th assist.
Everything seems to be clicking for Plekanec, who had been held off the scoresheet for six consecutive games before finding his groove again over the course of the last few outings.
“It’s all about confidence. It’s about finally getting some good, good bounces. I’m not a fan of using the bounces excuse, but if you look at the goals tonight – like the one where I slid it through [goaltender Ben Bishop’s] pads and it went in – you start playing with confidence,” said Plekanec, who lit the lamp just four times between Nov. 5 and Feb. 3, before registering three goals in his last three games. “It was hard [during that period]. It was a little bit longer than it should have been.”
Being featured on a line with Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk has helped Plekanec’s cause, too. The trio gave Jon Cooper’s contingent far more than it could handle in the second meeting between the two clubs this season. Plekanec simply couldn’t say enough good things about the way both youngsters have been performing as of late.
“Playing with Gally and Chucky, they do such a great job. They’re so strong on the forecheck and making plays, and I’m trying to back them up. Things have worked well the last few nights, and hopefully we can keep that going,” said Plekanec, who picked up the primary helper on Gallagher’s 14th goal of the year in the opening frame, before benefitting from a Galchenyuk feed to give the Canadiens a 4-1 lead just over six minutes into the third period. “I think we complement each other really well. We all have a certain role on the line that we’re trying to do.”
Head coach Michel Therrien shared similar thoughts in his post-game press conference, acknowledging the chemistry that Gallagher, Plekanec and Galchenyuk have forged during the club’s current streak.
“That line was dominant again tonight. I like the way they’re playing, the way they go to the net and make good plays,” said Therrien, who watched as the trio combined for six points and 14 shots on goal. “They’ve got a lot of poise with the puck. They keep things simple and they don’t complicate things. They were rewarded again tonight.”
Goaltender Ben Scrivens, meanwhile, has quickly taken notice of just how critical a player Plekanec is to the success of the group every time they hit the ice.
“He’s playing extremely well for us right now. It seems like he’s either scoring every night or at least generating chances and making the guys on his line better,” praised Scrivens, who made 37 saves to pick up his third career win in a Canadiens uniform. “That’s what we need from him and it’s great to see him step up and be a leader just by his actions on the ice. He’s not the loudest guy in the room, but the other guys have noticed what he’s doing on the ice.”
It’s hard not
to take notice. Plekanec has been a clutch player for a Canadiens team looking to right the ship coming out of the All-Star break, and with his help they’ve done exactly that. Now, they’ve got to keep it going one game at a time in an effort to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“It definitely feels good. That’s what we’ve been looking for over the last couple of months,” said Plekanec, whose squad will begin an extended three-game road swing on Friday night in Buffalo, before traveling to Arizona and Colorado. “Now, it’s the biggest road trip of the year coming up for us. We’ve got to come out really strong, get those games and put us back on the board.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
The Numbers Game: February 9, 2016
IceCaps report – Feb. 9
Enjoying the process