Back in the house: Hitting the ice for the first time in San Jose since being traded to the Penguins at least year’s deadline, Douglas Murray was a wrecking ball for the Canadiens in front of his former fans and teammates, dishing out five hits in his 17:33 of ice time. Having spent eight seasons with the Sharks to start his NHL career, leading San Jose in hits in three of those campaigns, Murray became a fan favorite in the teal and black during his time with the team and received one of the night’s biggest ovations when he was shown on the scoreboard during the game’s first TV timeout on Saturday night.
“Right now, it doesn’t mean much, to be honest,” confessed Briere, who played 10:50 against the Sharks. “It’s a nice number but it’s something I won’t really look back on until I retire and have a chance to soak in all these kinds of things I’ve lived through. While I’m playing I prefer to live in the moment and enjoy the present.”
Shell game: Looking to spark some offense and help his forwards rediscover their scoring touch, Michel Therrien juggled his lines in the third period, opting to move newcomer Thomas Vanek from his original spot with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta onto a trio with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais in his second game as a Hab. The Canadiens coach also reunited the Kid Line of Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller that was so effective earlier in the season, although that experiment was short-lived after Eller was given a 10-minute misconduct to close out the game.
“In the last 10 minutes of the third period we tried to make some experiments. We need to balance our lines – we can’t only have one line that’s going to produce,” confirmed Therrien, whose team sits in 28th place in the league in 5-on-5 scoring and scored just six goals during the four-game road trip out west. “We need to create more offense. We decided to put the kids back together and put Vanek on the right side with Desharnais.”
Heading East: After a four game road trip out west in which the Canadiens faced the first and third-ranked teams in the NHL in Anaheim and San Jose, respectively – in addition to tilts in LA and Phoenix – the Habs are heading home for a slightly less jam-packed week in the friendly confines of the Bell Centre. Returning to Montreal with just two points from their week on the west coast, the team will take on division rivals on Wednesday and Saturday when the Bruins and Sens come to visit. Having already played the last seven games following the Olympic break without starting goaltender Carey Price, the Habs still have no word on when the three-time All-Star will be ready to reclaim his spot between the pipes but will look to keep piling up wins while he recuperates from his lower body injury.
“We played two good games. The longer the trip went on, the more I felt fatigue started to take its toll on our team,” admitted Therrien, whose club is still in third place in the Eastern Conference despite having played seven games in the past 11 days and five games in the first eight days of March without their starting netminder. “Carey is our best player – he’s our most important player. But that’s not an excuse. I think we’ve still been able to pick up some key points in his absence.”
The Habs fly back to Montreal on Sunday morning and will practice on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday’s game against Boston.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.