In Prust we trust
Just when you thought you had seen every side of Brandon Prust’s game…
After firing his team up with a bout against league heavyweight Milan Lucic on Sunday, the Habs’ resident tough-guy assumed the role of offensive catalyst on Thursday night, netting a goal and two assists in the Canadiens’ 4-2 win over Carolina. Prust opened the scoring to get the Habs on the board early in the first, banging home a rebound in front of the net before helping Josh Gorges double their lead less than four minutes later with a picture-perfect saucer pass he that landed right on the defenseman's tape.
|The Habs celebrate their second goal of the night|
“Backhand sauce – my specialty,” joked the winger, before giving his account of the goal. “I just saw Gorges streaking to the net and I knew he had his guy beat, so I threw it towards him and he was able to bury it.”
The 28-year-old London native completed his scoring for the night with another heads-up play that helped Gorges set up the Habs’ go-ahead goal which Lars Eller, enjoying a three-point night of his own, would ultimately net.
“I’m just trying to keep doing the little things. I definitely played one of my better games tonight where the puck was just kind of going in,” continued Prust, who as luck would have it, logged the first three-point night of his NHL career during his 303rd game in the league on Thursday. “Other times you can play the best game of your life but get nothing. Tonight, we got some good bounces and the guys were burying their opportunities.”
With a goal and an assist already under his belt heading into a second period that saw the momentum shift to the Hurricanes bench, more than a few Habs fans were likely expecting the owner of seven 2012-13 bouts to drop his gloves and complete the Gordie Howe hat trick.
“I was trying to think about when the last time I had one of those was. I used to do it in the Juniors all the time,” admitted Prust, who ultimately kept his gloves on, but did manage to throw three hits over 17:22 of ice time. “In the second period when we lost momentum, I was kind of thinking about it, but I knew we were going to be able to come back out and battle back and that’s what we did.”
While the night clearly belonged to the line of Prust, Alex Galchenyuk and Eller, Thursday’s game represented the third consecutive match that saw a different line step up, with Brian Gionta, Tomas Plekanec and Michael Ryder enjoying big nights against the Islanders, and Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher having their turn against the Bruins in Boston.
“We’ve got three lines firing right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the fourth line came up big for us in the next game,” added Prust, who also offered up praise for Carey Price’s bounce back night that saw him turn aside 41 of 43 shots including an Eric Staal penalty shot to keep the game tied at two. “When you have four lines you can roll like this, everybody gets their rest because we know we can rely on each other. That’s the key to our game.”
While the Canadiens' team game has certainly been the secret to their success, head coach Michel Therrien was happy to single out the work turned in by the night's first star.
“We already knew he was a leader. We knew he was a guy that showed up to play each and every night. Right now he’s getting the chance, maybe for the first time in his career, to show that he can really play hockey,” shared Therrien following the match. “We have him playing on the first three lines, we give him a lot of responsibility – not only defensively, but offensively as well. At the moment he’s playing the best hockey of his career.”
The Habs will look to carry Thursday’s momentum over into the fourth game of their current road trip when they face the Lightning Saturday night in Tampa Bay.
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.