MONTREAL – Despite a solid effort and a two-goal night for Lars Eller, the Habs come up just short against the hottest team in the NHL.
Coming off an emotional win over the Bruins on Saturday night, the Canadiens’ next order of business was to face down the surging Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals as they rode a five-game win streak into the Bell Centre. While the home team clearly didn’t walk away with the result they wanted after 60 minutes of action, the game didn’t end without its share of positives for the Habs. At the top of that list: the return of Rene Bourque to the lineup.
“It definitely took a while to get into the game. I was a little rusty but I felt better as things went on. That’s why I got a few more minutes, a few more shifts, especially in the third when I was paired with Gio [Brian Gionta] and Pleky [Tomas Plekanec]. It was a nice building block. I’ll just keep moving forward,” shared Bourque, of his first time seeing action with the Habs in 21 games since being diagnosed with a concussion.
It may take him a game or two to hit his stride when it comes to timing, but Habs fans were undoubtedly happy to see Bourque jump back into his usual physical style of play, logging six hits before the end of the second period and putting four shots on goal by game’s end.
“I knew I had to get in on the fore-check, get hits, and that’s what was going to get me into the game – by playing a little bit more physical,” added the 31-year-old winger. “You hope getting bumped wakes you up a little quicker.”
Playing in his first game with the Canadiens since being called back up from the Hamilton Bulldogs, rookie Nathan Beaulieu picked up right where he left off in his NHL career. The 20-year-old glad to notch an assist and add another point to his resume Tuesday night, he was clearly more concerned with the two that got away from the team.
“We felt as a team that in the first ten minutes of the match we weren’t really ourselves. Then we got the lead, but we weren’t able to build on it,” admitted Beaulieu, who logged a second NHL helper when Lars Eller tipped in his shot from the point for the Habs second goal of the night. “When you get a lead on a team like that that’s so hot and has so many talented players and a good goalie, you have to be able to take advantage and unfortunately, we didn’t.”
The Canadiens’ most potent offensive line of the evening made up of Eller, Brandon Prust and Alex Galchenyuk, were responsible for both their team’s markers against the Caps, including one that brought them within a goal of their opponents with 3:22 left on the clock.
“I just tried to go to the net as much as I could. That’s when you get those ugly goals and tip-ins. My linemates did a great job today of getting the puck at the net and creating opportunities that way,” shared Eller, who after turning in solid performances over the past months enjoyed his first multi-goal game since famously scoring four in one night versus the Winnipeg Jets last season. “We still had a couple of minutes left in the game after getting that second goal, and I think we used that time to do all the right things. We put pucks at the net, we put guys in front of the net – it just didn’t bounce our way in the last few seconds.
“They got away with two points they probably shouldn’t have tonight,” added Eller. “All I can say is we’re going to be looking forward to the next game.”
The Habs will have their chance to extract some revenge from Washington when they return to the Bell Centre for a rubber match in 10 days, but first, they’ll have to settle for a little revenge against the Sabres when they pay a visit to Buffalo on Thursday night.
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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