COLUMBUS – David Desharnais was back to his old tricks on Friday night.
After spending two of the past three games watching from the pressbox as a healthy scratch, Desharnais responded in a big way in his return to action in Columbus. Starting the night on the fourth line and ending it as the hero of the hour, the 27-year-old center comfortably slid back into familiar territory against the Blue Jackets.
“That goal felt good, especially because it gave us the win,” admitted Desharnais, who fired the game-winning goal past Curtis McElhinney in the shootout. “I knew after that shot that I was either going to have the best or the worst feeling in the world, and it ended up being the best.”
Having gone over 200 days without finding the back of the net, Desharnais managed to rip the increasingly-heavy monkey off his back against the Blue Jackets. While it won’t officially enter the books as his first goal of the 2013-14 campaign, the Laurier Station, QC native was happy to come up clutch when it mattered.
“I was a little stressed, honestly, but at the same time I was confident. Scoring that goal, even if it doesn’t count on my stat sheet still feels great,” shared Desharnais, who co-led the Habs with two shootout goals in 2012-13. “When I got back to the bench, the guys were all really happy for me.”
Forced to listen to fans criticizing the shifty forward for the past few weeks – including some constructive critiquing from newly-elected mayor Denis Coderre – Desharnais’ teammates were almost more excited to see him light the lamp than he was.
“Davey works so hard. Nobody sees it, but he keeps his mouth shut and just keeps working hard,” praised Peter Budaj, who registered his 16th career shootout win on Friday night, stopping all three Blue Jackets shooters. “I’m so happy for him. It’s been tough for him, but he stayed the course like a true professional and the coach put him in there and he was ready. His hard work paid off. We’ve tried to work in practice on the shootout and he scored a big, big goal for us tonight.”
Calling on Desharnais with the game on the line may not have seemed like an intuitive choice after making him a healthy scratch for a few games of late, but for head coach Michel Therrien, it wasn’t even a question.
“It was an easy decision for me,” stressed Therrien, who enjoyed his first shootout win of the campaign in Columbus. “It’s not complicated; you go with the percentages. We look at the stats to see which guys have had success in the shootout and we go with them. When you’re at 40% or 50%, eventually, good things are going to happen. I had no hesitation about putting him in there because he’s great in shootouts.”
“It’s a relief after two shootouts this season where we weren’t able to score a goal,” added the Habs bench boss. “I’m really happy for him. He played a good game and we felt like he was ready. Sometimes it takes something like this to help a player rediscover his confidence. Hopefully that’s what happens.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
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