< MONTREAL – Scoring a hat trick is impressive; four goals, astonishing – what Lars Eller did Wednesday night can only be described as epic.
Things haven’t been easy for the Montreal faithful in recent weeks, but if Wednesday night was a taste of what’s to come in 2012, Habs fans have a lot to look forward to. A strong team effort may have been what downed the Jets at the Bell Centre, but it’s Lars Eller who treated the building to a moment so spectacular that fans will be talking about it – and him – for years to come.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity in the last couple of weeks and getting the win tonight was really important to us and our fans,” expressed Eller after what was undoubtedly the greatest night of his young professional career. “Tonight we really played to win, instead of being afraid to lose. This is a new year, we’re starting a new chapter and hopefully more of the same kind of play will follow.”
| The curtain call
Eller’s four-goal, five-point night will ultimately earn him a place in the rich history of the Canadiens – no small feat when you realize the scope of what that represents. The 22-year-old Dane, in his sophomore year with the Habs, stands as the first player to score four goals for the team at home in a single game since February 27, 1993, when Brian Bellows accomplished the feat at the Forum.
“Who?” asked Lars Eller, when informed of the fact. Fans may have to forgive him for the hole in his Habs history – he was after all only three-years-old when it happened.
“Scoring four goals feels incredible and I just wanted to thank my teammates for helping me get them,” praised Eller of Travis Moen and Andrei Kostitsyn who logged three and two assists respectively and were both a plus-3 on the night. “Most of those goals were Travis and Andrei working hard and doing an amazing job, their passing was great all night, they’re able to make a lot of room. I just did my best to be in the right place at the right time.”
By the time Eller potted his third goal of the match and hats began to rain down from the Bell Centre stands it seemed like things couldn’t possibly get any better. Then they did. With exactly nine minutes to play in the third period, a streaking Eller was hauled down in front of the Winnipeg net. The ref extended an arm to center ice signaling a penalty shot.
As he scooped the puck onto his stick and made his way toward the net at a wide angle, it was clear that another Eller goal would blow the top off the building. But no one expected what came next.
“I decided beforehand that I wanted to do that spin move and I knew the goalie was coming in cold so I thought it was good one to try,” said Eller whose spin-o-rama/backflip over Chris Mason will go down as one of the most memorable penalty-shot goals in team history. “I’ve seen a lot of guys shoot this year and for the most part they haven’t gone in, so I thought I’d try to do something a little different. There was nothing to lose so I thought I might as well try it.
“It’s an awesome feeling, especially to be able to do it in this building on a night like this. The feeling was incredible… I’m at a loss for words.” added Eller. “It might never happen again – in fact there’s a really good chance it’ll never happen again – so I’m just going to try to enjoy this as much as I can.”
Which is exactly what he did. Taking the ice for a final time to accept the night’s first-star honors, Eller made sure to soak it all in. Basking in the applause and chants of his name, the young Dane gestured to the crowd, egging them on to get louder, and they complied, upping the decibel level even further.
“I thought they could get a little louder,” he grinned. “I was right.”Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
The Numbers Game - Jan. 4, 2012
Canadiens assign Louis Leblanc to the Hamilton Bulldogs