TORONTO – Some games are worth just a little more than two points.
After losing their first two games against the Leafs at the Bell Centre by a combined score of 8-1 earlier this year, the Habs headed to the Air Canada Centre with a chip on their collective shoulders. They repaid the favor to their hosts on Wednesday night, firing 40 shots at Ben Scrivens and flying out of Toronto with a 5-2 win.
“Every game should be a statement game. In a shortened season, two points are huge,” confirmed Brendan Gallagher, who scored his sixth goal of the season against the Leafs to tie him for third in NHL rookie scoring.“When you get embarrassed at home, the next time you play them you put a lot of emphasis on the game. They played well but I thought we played a solid road game. We were able to play a disciplined style of hockey and I think it frustrated them a little bit.”
The Canadiens’ power play unit went 1-for-2 on the night and Carey Price snuffed out a Mikhail Grabovski penalty shot attempt to keep it a 2-1 game in the second period. The Habs played a textbook road game against the Leafs, getting pucks on net, forcing turnovers and taking advantage of offensive opportunities to bring their recent record to an Eastern Conference leading 7-0-2 in the past nine games.
“Anytime you lose twice to a team, you want to bounce back,” explained Gallagher, who had five shots, threw two hits and finished with a plus-2 differential.“You don’t like losing to anyone, but when it’s the Montreal-Toronto rivalry there are a lot of emotions involved. We treated it like any other game, but it was important to keep our emotions in check and go out and play a good road game.
“We knew it was going to be a physical game and we were prepared to play that way,”added Gallagher, whose team was outhit 40-27 by Toronto. “Our strength is our speed and we try to use that whenever we can. We were able to get in on the forecheck and create some turnovers and capitalize on them.”
While the Canadiens headed into Wednesday’s game insisting they weren’t out to avenge the 6-0 loss to the Leafs in their most recent meeting, there was something a little sweeter about handily defeating their Original 6 rivals on ACC ice.
“Something we discussed early in camp and in the summer was that we have to bring the pride of the Montreal Canadiens back into our dressing room,” shared Gorges, who blocked a game-high four shots against the Leafs.“That’s something we’ve tried to put into our game every night.Coming here tonight that was something we really talked about and the coaches emphasized before tonight’s game.”
Moving from worst to first in the conference since the 2011-12 season came to a close, the Canadiens have definitely gotten their groove back this year. Leading all NHL goalies with 11 wins after Wednesday’s game, Price knows there’s no major secret to the team’s recent success.
“We just stuck with doing what we’ve been doing,” he stressed.“I thought we controlled the play for the majority of the game. We got what we deserved.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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