The grinder

Saturday, 14.12.2013 / 11:20 PM

UNIONDALE – The Canadiens wanted to leave Long Island with two big points in the bank, and they did just that by besting a feisty New York Islanders squad 1-0 in overtime on Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum.

Max Pacioretty’s 12th goal of the season – and fourth game-winner of the year – at the 1:51 mark of the extra frame, helped Michel Therrien’s troops snap a two-game losing skid, and got the Canadiens back on track with crucial tilts on the horizon after they moved to within three points of the Atlantic division-leading Boston Bruins with the victory.

In the aftermath of the Habs’ 20th win of the season, Pacioretty insisted that the Canadiens’ latest triumph was a result of staying on task and grinding it out from start to finish, especially in a game they knew full well was going to be a hard-fought affair against a desperate club.

“Both teams shut it down pretty well and both teams played outstanding, but in a game like that, all it takes is one bounce and that’s what we got,” offered Pacioretty, whose overtime-winner came courtesy of a tape-to-tape feed from David Desharnais circling the Islanders goal behind netminder Evgeni Nabokov. “We’re struggling to score goals, but we’ve got to stick to our defensive plan and that’s what we were able to do tonight. Both teams did a good job of shutting down any chances, and that’s what happened in a tight game all the way to the end.”

For Therrien, who was adamant leading up to the game that he wanted to see his players showcase the fire and intensity that had secured them valuable points in recent weeks, Saturday night’s victory was well-deserved.

“I really liked our intensity. We played physical hockey. Everyone worked really hard in that department,” offered the Habs bench boss, who watched his squad go toe-to-toe with an Islanders team that sought to crash and bang their way to their first home victory in a month, but ultimately failed to intimidate the bleu-blanc-rouge. “That’s something we stressed with the guys before the game. It was a hard-fought game. There wasn’t a lot of space out there on the ice and both goaltenders made key saves when they needed to.”

Enter Carey Price, who stopped 21 shots to pick up his 15th win of the season and his second shutout of the year. It was also the 21st shutout of Price's career, tying him with Charlie Hodge for eighth place all-time in Canadiens history.

In Pacioretty’s eyes, Price’s consistency in goal thus far this season has been nothing short of exceptional. Now, the Canadiens need to continue doing anything and everything they can in front of their starter to give themselves the best chance to win regardless of where the opposition sits in the standings.

“Obviously, Carey has been keeping us in so many games. Carey’s done the same thing every night, so it’s nice to reward him,” confided Pacioretty on the subject of the three-time All-Star, who now boasts a 2.00 goals-against average in 27 starts this season. “We've stepped away from our game the past five games or so, but we played a bit better tonight. We know that we have more in the tank. This little stretch here before Christmas is crucial. We need to find whatever gas we have left and put together some wins.”

Hopeful that Saturday night’s victory will be the start of something good, the Canadiens will look for a similar effort come Sunday evening when they battle the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre.

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

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