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Canadiens blitz Wild with Pacioretty hat trick

by James Murphy

MONTREAL -- With three goals in their past three games, the Montreal Canadiens were searching for answers heading into Tuesday night's game with the Minnesota Wild. They found them with some new line combinations and a Max Pacioretty natural hat trick in the second period that led to a 6-2 win at Bell Centre.

Montreal coach Michel Therrien switched his forward lines at practice Monday in an effort to jumpstart his offense, and the new lines clicked. But as Therrien pointed out following the game, the sudden offensive onslaught was also a result of maintaining a positive attitude during his team's recent struggles.

"We were doing a lot of good things and I was not panicking," Therrien said. "As a coach, I know what the good things were that we were doing. So we still focused on the good things and tried to make some adjustments, some guidelines offensively and we worked on it [Monday]. From my standpoint, I was not panicking because I knew there was a lot of good things that we were doing and that was a good foundation. We knew eventually we'd get chances."

Michael Bournival, Daniel Briere and Alex Galchenyuk also scored for the Canadiens, and David Desharnais and P.K. Subban each had two assists. But it was the three-goal outburst by Pacioretty – who snapped an eight-game goalless drought -- that opened the floodgates. For Pacioretty, it ended the worst slump of his career.

"I maybe let that slip away a bit," Pacioretty acknowledged when asked how hard it had been to stay positive. "I think when you're not scoring, you doubt yourself and I was doubting myself more than I ever have in my life. Playing in this city, it's a little bit harder when you're playing in a slump like that, no matter what people say. But at the same time, if you can get through it, you can accomplish so much more. It's a good feeling being able to overcome that slump and it makes me a better person and player down the road."

Pacioretty was reunited with his former linemate Desharnais, whom he had success with the past two seasons and also played with Gallagher. He credited his linemates for helping him snap out of the scoring slump.

"I've been bounced around a lot, and rightfully so. I've been struggling," Pacioretty said. "I like playing with 'Davey' and I think everyone in the world feels comfortable playing with Gallagher. He's got an engine that doesn't stop and just that split second of him getting in on the forecheck helps so much. It keeps defensemen honest and maybe second-guessing their breakout pass and maybe force plays. So when he gets in there first, that's when our line is so effective and we read off of him."

Nino Niederreiter and Dany Heatley scored for the Wild, who had a four-game winning streak snapped.

Wild goalie Josh Harding was chased from the game after Pacioretty scored his third goal. Harding, named one of the NHL's Three Stars of the Week on Monday after going 3-0-0 with a 1.38 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage, was replaced by Darcy Kuemper. Harding finished with 16 saves on 19 shots; Kuemper allowed three goals on nine shots.

"We're not going to get too low. We're going to learn our lesson," Harding said. "If you go up and down their lineup, they have skill. Everybody knows that. If you're not on your game, they proved tonight how much skill they have. Unfortunately, those types of games are actually going to happen. You just have to learn from it."

Wild coach Mike Yeo wasn't as forgiving.

"Hopefully, we're a little ticked off," Yeo said. "No pushback. That was basically why we pulled [Harding] and to have enough in the tank to give us a chance to play that game tomorrow [against the Ottawa Senators]. We'll see. This is a game that we would very quickly like to throw it in the garbage.

"If we just sit here and say we've been on a nice run and this was bound to happen, … there will be no difference. If this stings like it should, it should be pretty motivating for us to be ready for that game."

Minnesota completes a back-to-back road set against the Senators on Wednesday. It was the second regulation loss for the Wild in their past 14 games and snapped an eight-game point streak, which was their best since a 10-game point streak from March 8-27, 2007 (9-0-1).

Montreal's power play at Bell Centre was 8-for-45 (17.8 percent), but the Canadiens went 2-for-5 on the man-advantage with goals from Pacioretty and Galchenyuk.

The Canadiens play at the Washington Capitals on Friday in the first half of a back-to-back which sees them return home to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

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