BOSTON – If you need something done, ask Brendan Gallagher to do it.
By nature, intangibles are hard to quantify, but if the NHL had a statistical category for character, Gallagher would be among the league leaders. Used in almost every situation on the ice, it was no surprise to see the rookie winger called on by his head coach when the team needed a spark the most.
Up two goals less than 25 minutes into Wednesday’s game, the Canadiens appeared to be heading for an easy win in Boston early on. Then the rest of the second period happened. When hope seemed lost following an onslaught that saw the Bruins rally for four unanswered goals, the Habs headed into the second intermission and returned with a response.
“It wasn’t an adjustment in our style; it was just an adjustment in our mindset and the way we were playing,” explained Gallagher of the catalyst behind the team’s three-goal, third period comeback. “We knew we had 20 minutes to change the game. That was our only mindset. We had a lot of faith in the guys in the locker room; no one had their head down, no one was pouting. We knew we were going to come back.”
One of the ringleaders behind the team’s late rally, the 20-year-old willed his 10th goal of the season past Tuukka Rask to bring the Habs within one before eventually potting the shootout-winner a few minutes later.
“He deserves it all because he just works so hard. In games like tonight, toward the end of games, those are the types of guys you want on the ice,” described veteran defenseman, Josh Gorges. “You want the guys that get to the dirty areas and get in those scrums and grease it out. He came up huge for us in the end.”
While he didn’t factor in on the scoresheet on Andrei Markov’s power play marker to force overtime, Gallagher’s fingerprints were all over the game-tying goal. Using every inch of his 5-foot-9 frame to screen Rask on the play, the Edmonton native paid the price to help turn a 5-4 loss into an eventual 6-5 shootout win.
“My job is to be in front of the net and try to find loose pucks, get in front of the goalie and do whatever I can to find a way to get the puck in the net,” explained Gallagher on how he landed the job of creating a net-front presence. “It’s where I’ve had a little bit of success and it’s where I like to be. It was a good opportunity for me – I was just happy to be on the ice!”
For Gorges, it’s no secret how the rookie winger has earned his coach’s trust so quickly in his debut season.
“It’s not just about screening; it’s about a willingness to stand in there, a willingness to battle, and hunt down those loose pucks,” explained Gorges. “He’s got a knack for being around the front of the net and hunting down those rebounds and he’s willing to do whatever it takes.”
Armed with as much heart as he has skill, Gallagher was an easy choice for Michel Therrien to tap with the game on the line. After seeing all five Habs and six Bruins turned away on their previous shootout attempts, Gallagher made no mistake when his number was finally called.
“Shootouts are something we practice quite a bit, and you know what? That little guy is doing an excellent job. He’s a young man who just doesn’t understand pressure,” marveled the Habs’ head coach. “He’s just out there having fun. I think it’s just the attitude he has. He went into this game with a great attitude and he came out with the winning goal.”
Still smiling even through stitches following a high stick to the lip early on in the game, Gallagher now sits third in rookie scoring behind Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau and Tampa’s Cory Conacher. Despite his success so far this season, the only part of his goals he cared about was that they helped earn the Habs two points in the standings.
“I was able to sneak one by, but Buds played great in the shootout. I just wanted to get one for him,” he stressed. “We knew we were going to score goals, we just had to keep doing what we were doing. We knew it was going to be a tough game and the style of game where chances weren’t easy to come by. We just had to stick with it and find ways to put pucks behind their goalie. Overall it was just a really good team win.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
Game Highlights: Canadiens-Bruins
The Numbers Game – March 27, 2013