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Brendan Gallagher relishes role for Canadiens

Forward spent much of Game 2 wreaking havoc in front of Rangers net

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

NEW YORK -- Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher couldn't sleep when he got home after he and his teammates rallied for a 4-3 overtime win against the New York Rangers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Bell Centre on Friday.

 

[RELATED: Complete Rangers vs. Canadiens series coverage]

 

It simply was too difficult to come down that quickly from such an emotional high, with the Canadiens being so close to being down two games before Tomas Plekanec scored with 18 seconds remaining, and Alexander Radulov scored at 18:34 of overtime to tie the best-of-7 series 1-1.

Game 3 will be played at Madison Square Garden on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports, MSG).

Instead of going to sleep when he got home, Gallagher watched Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round between the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers with his parents.

"I was up until 3:30, 4 in the morning," Gallagher said after the Canadiens arrived in New York on Saturday. "It's tough to calm down, so obviously I've got to get a good night's rest tonight and be ready for [Sunday]."

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm2: Radulov stuffs home OT winner

Gallagher was pesky Friday, when he battled hard with Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh and did his best to create havoc in front of goalie Henrik Lundqvist. He had one assist and three hits in 20:31 of ice time.

"I don't think [Gallagher's] trying to get under guys' skins," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. "I think his job is to go to the net. I think he did a great job of going to the net and stopping without interfering with the goaltender. Whether that frustrates them or not, [it] has absolutely nothing to do with him trying to get under his skin; he just does his job. The discipline that he's shown so far has been impressive, and that's what we need from our team in this series right here."

Gallagher said he expects to see plenty of McDonagh again Sunday. He's actually looking forward to it.

"It's been fun," Gallagher said. "He's one of the best players in the League, and certainly a competitor. It's a challenge that I enjoy. It seems to bring out the best in me. It's definitely been fun, and I'll see a lot more of him as the series goes along."

A broken hand limited Gallagher to 64 games during the regular season, when he had 10 goals and 19 assists. But the 24-year-old is finding his game again playing on a line with Plekanec and left wing Paul Byron.

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm2: Byron finishes Gallagher's feed

"That's been really nice," said Gallagher, who has nine goals and 10 assists in 36 career Stanley Cup Playoff games. "Having a role, having set linemates for me, it's really helped my game. I've been able to build on it game after game. We weren't great in Game 1. We were able to sit down, talk about it and came back with a pretty good effort in Game 2. I think that's been important, building that chemistry.

"We know going forward we're going to have to be playing well if we're going to have success. Having that chemistry between the three of us, I think it's been a big step for all three of us in the right direction. Hopefully that continues as the series goes on."

If it does, Gallagher will continue to play with an edge and with a smile that seems impossible to wipe off his face. The enthusiasm he brings to the rink seems to be contagious.

"He looks like he's enjoying the game, and he is enjoying the game. He's such a competitive little bugger," Canadiens center Steve Ott said of Gallagher (5-foot-9, 182 pounds). "He stirs things up and he plays extremely hard and he's got great talent to go along with that. Actually, after the game, I was talking about him with my dad on the phone, saying how much that little guy competes. It's good to have him on our side.

"He's far on his way past anything that I could ever teach him. The kid's a great hockey player. The rest of his game continues to grow every single year."

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