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Dad's pep talk inspires Cammalleri

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL – As if he really needed it, Michael Cammalleri was feeling a little more inspired Tuesday morning.

The Montreal Canadiens' sniper is already about as clutch as they come when his team has faced elimination over the past two seasons, so there was no doubt Cammalleri would be ready to play when he arrived at the Bell Centre for Game 6 against the Boston Bruins.

But just as he was walking out the door to go to the rink, he got a little extra boost from someone special – Dad.

"Leo Cammalleri, thanks for the pep talk," the younger Cammalleri said after his goal and assist led the Canadiens to a 2-1 win over the Bruins, forcing a deciding Game 7 in Boston on Wednesday night. "He's a real passionate guy. It was just kind of a motivational thing on the way out the condo today. It got me excited about the game."

Cammalleri scored a goal off his now-patented one-timer from well inside the right circle on a 5-on-3 power play at 10:07 of the first period. The rebound of his shot from near the same area wound up on Brian Gionta's stick for the winning goal on another 5-on-3 power play at 5:48 of the second period.

His performance gave Cammalleri an incredible 7 goals and 3 assists in the seven elimination games the Canadiens have played over the past two playoffs; they've won six of them.

"It's a team thing," Cammalleri said. "Guys have played well in elimination games, I've just been on the receiving end of it."

After leading the League with 13 goals in 19 playoff games last season, Cammalleri is tied for the League lead in these playoffs with 9 points in 6 games.

As humble as he wants to be, the parallels are too striking for it to be a coincidence.
Last season he finished with just 2 assists in his final 9 regular-season games after recovering from a sprained MCL in his knee, saving his offensive explosion for the playoffs.

This season Cammalleri had a far better finish with 3 goals and 3 assists in his final six regular-season games -- but that was preceded by a stretch where he scored just once in 14 games.
However, like clockwork, Cammalleri is back to form in the playoffs. Except don't expect him or his Canadiens teammates to rest on their laurels for too long.

"As soon as we got in the room tonight, there was practically zero talk about tonight's game and it quickly went to getting some rest and rolling into next game," Cammalleri said. "Let's just roll it over like it's the same game. Let's keep going."

For all the great things Cammalleri did offensively, his two greatest plays of the game may have been in his own end.

The first one came in the opening period when he was wheeling around in his end and threw the puck somewhat inexplicably towards the Bruins bench. Adam McQuaid had stepped on the ice a little early, and the puck hit him before he could get back off. Four seconds after the Bruins were called for too many men on the ice, Dennis Seidenberg broke Cammalleri's stick with a slash off the faceoff to give Montreal the 5-on-3 that produced the game's opening goal – scored by Cammalleri.

But he was quick to throw the credit to Canadiens assistant coach Kirk Muller, who held a meeting with the 5-on-3 power play unit a few days earlier to go over strategies seeing as the situation hadn't presented itself once the whole series.

"It was a good initiative by him," Cammalleri said. "With all the information being thrown at you, sometimes it's easy to forget some of the things you were working on a week ago."

The second play was bothering Brad Marchand just enough so he wasn't able to slide a loose puck sitting inches from the goal line into an open net last in the second period.

Cammalleri saw more ice time than any other forward on either team -- 25:13 -- and he was just as strong in his own end as he was in Boston's. But what he's definitely most excited about is that he only has one sleep before he gets to do it all over again.

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