Game 77, Home Game 40 | Thursday March 30, 2017 
Bell Centre, Montreal, QC.

CANADIENS
Montreal

teamlogo_canadiens

6-2

PANTHERS
Florida

(Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

Lineup

Forward lines and defense pairings 

Max Pacioretty – Phillip Danault – Alexander Radulov
Paul Byron – Tomas Plekanec – Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk – Andrew Shaw – Artturi Lehkonen
Dwight King – Steve Ott – Andreas Martinsen

Andrei Markov – Shea Weber
Brandon Davidson – Jeff Petry
Nathan Beaulieu – Alexei Emelin

Goaltenders

Carey Price
Charlie Lindgren

Scratches

Jordie Benn, Torrey Mitchell, Brian Flynn, Michael McCarron, Nikita Nesterov, Al Montoya

Injured Reserve

Game Report

The Montreal Canadiens have clinched a spot in the 2017 playoffs. Post-game, Max Pacioretty said that the players decided at the end of last season that this would do just that.

Sitting on the sidelines was a bitter pill for the captain and his teammates. And of course, faithful Habs fans.

But despite Pacioretty’s declaration, getting to this point was not a lock. After a strong start, the Canadiens experienced adversity. Thoughts returned to the lost season of 2015-16.

Remember last season? Rather than finding ways to meet the challenge, Michel Therrien panicked. His decisions directly undermined the strengths of his team. Rather than cushioning the blow, the head coach exacerbated the situation, sending the team into a death spin from which they never recovered.

So when the struggles started happening again this year, we knew that the Habs were in trouble. They did not have the coach capable of making the necessary moves to stem the tide. And players knew what we knew.

Confidence in their coach and themselves plummeted. They looked like a very different team than had started the season.

Marc Bergevin was handed a gift from the hockey gods. More correctly, the gift came from the Canadiens most-hated rival. The Boston Bruins not only fired Claude Julien just in the nick of time, they gave permission to Montreal to talk to him.

There is no question that Marc Bergevin waited too long to fire Therrien. About 13 months too late. Bergevin got lucky, extremely lucky, that he was handed a solution.

Claude Julien didn’t have much time to install his systems and to repair all the damage done by Therrien. But with five games left, we are seeing signs that Julien has made pretty good progress in the challenge left to him.

Tomas Plekanec scored tonight and centred the line that powered the Canadiens win. The trio of Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron recorded eight points and were a combined plus-12. And the first line chipped in with four points.

Montreal has upped their shots per game to just under 31. Julien has solidified the defence and improved the penalty-kill.

Perhaps, most importantly, the players are believing in themselves again. And that is directly attributable to coach Julien. Byron said so, after tonight’s game. Julien brought a positive energy that had been missing from the team. And it engendered confidence.

So the goal set sometime after the 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 9, 2016 has been accomplished. And Max Pacioretty is the captain of a playoff team. It’s now time to set a new objective.

~~~

▲     Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Plekanec, Paul Byron, Alexei Emelin, Dwight King

▼     Alex Galchenyuk, Brandon Davidson

 Statistics 
CANADIENS   PANTHERS
33 Shots 31
57% Face-offs 44%
0 for 1 Power Play 0 for 3
20 Penalty Minutes 6
19 Hits 27
 63 Corsi For  55
 Scoring
 FINAL 1 2 3 OT SO T
 Canadiens (44-24-9) 3 0 3 6
 Panthers (33-32-11) 0 1 1 2
Scorers Goalies
  • MTL: Byron (21), Plekanec (9), Byron (22), Pacioretty (35), Gallagher (10), Danault (12) 
  • FLA: Smith (15), Matheson (6) 
  • MTL: Price (W) 36-18-5
  • FLA: Berra (L) 0-3-0
 NHL Three Stars

NHL3stars
  1.  Brendan Gallagher  MTL
  2.  Paul Byron  MTL
  3.  Nathan Beaulieu  MTL

 Video Highlights 
 Post-game Press Conference
Coach Claude Julien

Brendan Gallagher

  • “We all had the mindset that we would use last year as a learning experience. It was obviously disappointing, and really frustrating for the players who were in here to go through with, but we regrouped and are stronger for it.”

Max Pacioretty

  • “We’ve been working towards this since the final buzzer went last year. This is what we made up our minds we had to do. Throughout all the adversity, we’ve been able to come out and put together 77 good games [so far].”
  • “You can see how important confidence and momentum are, and we’ve got a little right now, but it’s up to us to keep it going in the playoffs.”
  • “We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, but now we’ve got to get down and try to clean up a couple of areas of our game that we know will give us success in the playoffs. It’s a good time for everybody to be feeling good about their game, […] and creating offense like we did tonight.”
  • “We’re talking about the playoffs tonight, but as soon as we wake up tomorrow morning, we’ll be putting in the work to have success and try to achieve our ultimate goal. It’s a long year, with so many peaks and valleys, that we have to have everyone on the same page, doing whatever it takes to win games. We’ve got five left, and we’ve got to handle them the right way.”

Quotes courtesy of NHL.com

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