OTTAWA – When Max Pacioretty gets rolling, he’s tough to stop.
A goal scoring machine all season long, Pacioretty put on an offensive clinic again on Friday night in Ottawa. Notching his third hat trick of the campaign – four shy of Joe Malone’s record of seven set in 1917-18 – the 25-year-old winger could become the first Hab since Vincent Damphousse in 1993-94 to enjoy a 40-goal season.
“The puck is just going in. That’s the way it goes sometimes,” shrugged Pacioretty, who scored his 36th, 37th and 38th goals of the season against Craig Anderson to take sole possession of fourth place in the NHL scoring race behind Alex Ovechkin (49), Corey Perry (41) and Joe Pavelski (39). “I got a lot of help from my linemates tonight and got some favorable bounces. You just keep working hard and wait for those to come and good things happen.”
The first Canadiens player to find himself among the league’s Top 10 scoring leaders since Stephane Richer (51 goals) in 1989-90 – and the first among the NHL’s Top 5 since Guy Lafleur (52) in 1978-79 – the New Cannan, CT native is now just two goals shy of breaking the 20-year 40-goal drought in Montreal. With four games left in the regular season, though, hitting personal milestones is the furthest thing from Pacioretty’s mind.
“It’s a fun feeling scoring goals and helping the team win. Whatever happens, happens,” stressed the bruising power forward, who also chipped in with a pair of assists in the 7-4 win in the nation’s capital. “I’m here for at least five more years; I’m not worried about my stats right now. I’m helping the team win games and that’s the most rewarding feeling. If I was sitting in front of you and we were out of the playoffs or if we had lost, I wouldn’t be too happy about my game.”
Leading the charge by helping the Habs erase a three-goal Sens lead for the second time in three weeks, the line of Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek combined for an incredible 10 points on Friday night. Currently sitting 28th in the league in 5-on-5 goals for, the Habs found a way to score early and often at even strength against the Sens, setting the table for what could prove to be a recipe for success in the playoffs.
“They come in bunches. Right now we’re playing the right way,” explained Pacioretty, who has picked up 14 points in nine games since Vanek joined his line on a fulltime basis. “We’re willing to take a chance and we’re getting pucks deep and that makes it tough to play against us because we’re grinding teams down. Once they think we’re just going to chip it by them, Vanner makes a play in the neutral zone. It’s nice to have that dual threat. Our line might not be getting as many shots as we were before, but we’re waiting for the right opportunity and we’re making plays.
“I feel like scoring goals is more of a mindset than a skill,” added the 6-foot-2 power forward. “Watch a guy like Vanek and he never panics with the puck around the net. You kind of take your time and make sure you make the right play and take the right shot and put it where you want to put it. Taking that extra second helps guys score goals. People always stress getting pucks to the net quickly, but there are times where taking your time and taking the right shot is more beneficial.”
While scoring doesn’t seem to be an issue for the Canadiens these days, Pacioretty isn’t ready to ride into the postseason resting on his laurels. Having twice spotted the Senators a three-goal cushion only to have to come roaring back in dramatic fashion, the Habs will be looking to tighten things up at the other end of the ice down the stretch.
“The results are definitely in our favor right now but there are areas of our game we want to clean up. You don’t want to get greedy, but the shots we gave up and giving up four against is something we want to work on,” admitted Pacioretty, whose team was outshot 43-23 at the Canadian Tire Centre. “We still had confidence down three, though. They had gotten the bounces early on and if you look at the shots, we obviously got some favorable bounces, too. It’s just the way it goes some nights. It just shows in our last two games against them, we’re never down and out. This time it was very early, but it shows if you keep working hard good things happen.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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