Brendan Gallagher scored his first of his three goals in the first minute. Ninety seconds later Mike Reilly hit a goalpost. Then on their second shot of the game Jesperi Kotkaniemi made it 2-0. Before the first period was over Gallagher had his second goal and the Canadiens had a 3-0 lead that ended with a 5-1 victory..
We’ve often heard the word “resilient” when it comes to describing this year’s Canadiens. This week we had another example of that ability to bounce back.
The Canadiens came home Monday on a four game losing streak that had pushed them out of a playoff position. With two straight wins they’re back in the number one Eastern Conference wild card berth three points ahead of Carolina and four in front of ninth place Columbus. . .
It took 467 games for Brendan Gallagher to post his first career hat trick. (Eleven times he had scored twice in a game). His first goal came on one of those Canadiens quick transition plays started by Brett Kulak and set up by Phillip Danault on a two-on-one. His second goal came on a hail-mary pass/shot from the boards at the goal line that found the smallest of holes past rookie goaltender Carter Hart. On his third goal he took a pass from Andrew Shaw off his skate to his backhand. He didn’t stop there. Six of Gallagher’s nine shot attempts were on the net. Gallagher is the league leader in shots on goal per 60 minutes of ice time at 13.7, most of those shots coming from the so-called ‘dirty area’ in front of the crease.
Twenty-six goals on the season. Over his last eight games he has seven goals and ten points and last season’s personal best 31 goals is clearly in sight.
Brendan Gallagher may have been the night’s show-stopper but this was a relentless Canadiens total team win. They had their 5-0 lead before the game reached it’s mid-point. They could be forgiven had they had coasted home on their laurels. It didn’t happen. All four lines and the defence put in a full sixty minute, 200 foot game. Although he didn’t get a shot on goal, even Jonathan Drouin seemed caught up in the two-way action.
The Vegas Golden Knights gave up a lot to acquire Tomas Tatar at last year’s trade deadline and then didn’t give him much of a chance to show them what kind of a hockey player they were getting. Vegas threw Tatar into the grab bag in the Pacioretty trade and he’s been a bonanza for the Canadiens. With the Canadiens fifth goal of the night, he became a 20-goal scorer for the fifth time in his six year NHL career (He scored 19 his rookie season). He joins Gallagher and Domi as the Canadiens 20-goal producers still with 21 games left to play. We’re still waiting on Drouin.
For the first time this season, the Canadiens entered the game with nobody on their injury list. The return of Paul Byron Tuesday night allowed Claude Julien to move his forwards around especially his third and fourth lines. Byron bumped the struggling Artturi Lehkonen down to the fourth line and for the second game in a row Byron and Kotkaniemi combined for a goal. Meanwhile, with Lehkonen’s presence seems to have lit a fire under Nate Thompson and Matthew Peca on the fourth line. Peca had five of the line’s extraordinary ten shots on goal.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….Kotkaniemi‘s goal was his 11th of the season (all of them at the Bell Centre). He now has 30 points which ties him fourth among the league rookie scorers, only two points behind Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin for second. Vancouver Elias Petterson has the Calder Trophy locked up with 54 points.
….Against the NHL’s best faceoff team Phillip Danault won 12 of 19 faceoffs (63%) including 7 of 10 against Claude Giroux.
….This was the 15th time this season the Canadiens offense has produced five or more goals.
….With his big lead Julien was able to roll his lines and defense pairings. Shea Weber‘s ice time was only 21:20 and members of the fourth line were in the neighbourhood of 13 minutes.
Seven of the next eight games are on the road starting in Toronto Saturday night. That will be the first of three in four nights. They play at New Jersey Monday and Detroit Tuesday before finishing the road trip at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. Then it’s home to face Pittsburgh a week Saturday. Thirteen road games and eight at home to finish the season.