Canadiens Game Day: First NHL hat-trick for Habs’ Brendan Gallagher

Phillip Danault picks up an assist in his first game as a father and Canadiens move within three points of Leafs with 5-1 win over Flyers.

Were you surprised to learn that Brendan Gallagher’s hat-trick in Thursday night’s 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at the Bell Centre was the first of his NHL career?

Teammate Tomas Tatar was.

“I was surprised it’s Gally’s first,” Tatar said about Gallagher, who has had 11 games with two goals. “He’s a pure goal-scorer. I always saw him score … when I was in Detroit, he scored a lot of goals against us as well. So, to be honest, I’m a little surprised it’s his first. But, obviously, it’s a memorable thing and he worked really hard tonight.”

It was also a memorable night for Tatar as he scored his 20th goal of the season, hitting the 20-goal mark for the fifth straight season.

“To be honest, I didn’t really think about it too much,” Tatar said. “I’m just trying to do the job. Obviously, it’s like a cherry on the top. The team is winning and you’re putting the puck in the net. A big win and the cherry on the top.”

Rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored the other goal for the Canadiens, giving him 11 this season — all scored at the Bell Centre. Goalie Carey Price made 39 saves as the Canadiens recorded their second straight win following a four-game winless streak (0-3-1).

It was an even more memorable night for Phillip Danault, as he picked up an assist on Gallagher’s first goal only 58 seconds into the game, marking the sixth time this season the Canadiens scored in the first minute of a game. For Danault, it was his first point as a father after his wife, Marie-Pierre Fortin, gave birth to their first child, Phillip-Édouard, early Wednesday morning.

“First shift, too, we score,” Danault said with a big smile. “So that one was for our little kid. Definitely felt good, though. I had the energy tonight. I wasn’t tired. I was still in the bubble.”

Sitting on the bench in Danault’s locker was a souvenir puck from the game.

“I want to leave (Gallagher) his three pucks for tonight,” Danault said. “He got a hat-trick. But I took another one.”

What’s Danault going to do with his souvenir puck?

“I don’t know yet,” he said. “There’s a lot of things I can do with it. We’ll see.”

The assist gave Danault 11-30-41 totals this season, a career high for him. Two seasons ago, Danault posted 13-27-40 totals. Danault also had a strong night in the faceoff circle against the Flyers, going 12-7 on his draws (63 per cent).

Max Domi also set a career high for points when he picked up an assist on Tatar’s goal, giving him 20-33-53 totals this season. During his rookie season with the Arizona Coyotes in 2015-16, Domi posted 18-34-52 totals.

Look out, Leafs

The Canadiens improved their record to 33-21-7 with the victory over the Flyers, keeping the first wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and staying three points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes (32-23-6), who beat the Panthers 4-3 Thursday night in Florida.

The Canadiens also moved three points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs (36-20-4), who are in third place in the Atlantic Division and hold a game in hand. The Canadiens visit the Maple Leafs Saturday night (7 p.m., CBC, SN, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).

The Maple Leafs lost 3-2 to the Capitals in Washington Thursday night.

“Saturday’s game’s going to be huge for us,” Canadiens defenceman Victor Mete said. “If we can come out with the win there and keep rolling it should be pretty good. I think if we can come out the same way we did tonight against them in their own rink then we’ll be pretty good.

“I think it will be pretty nuts,” Mete added. “It’s a huge game for both teams. So I don’t see it being a disappointment.”

Everyone’s healthy

With Danault returning from paternity leave after missing Tuesday night’s 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets to be with his wife, Canadiens coach Claude Julien had his full roster in place with not a single player on the injured list.

Defenceman Christian Folin, who has yet to play since being acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 9, was made a healthy scratch along with forwards Nicolas Deslauriers and Charles Hudon.

Here’s how the Canadiens’ lines and defence pairings looked:

Drouin – Danault – Gallagher
Tatar – Domi – Shaw
Byron – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Lehkonen – Thompson – Peca

Mete – Weber
Reilly – Petry
Kulak – Benn

Defence pairings set

Julien has been sticking with the same three defence pairings for about two months now and they are definitely developing some chemistry together as a result.

“I think just adjusting to the way we want to play and what we talk about, it helps,” Brett Kulak said. “Our forwards do a really good job at getting in the lanes coming through the neutral zone and they carry good speed. They get back for us and then get going up ice. They get open for me to pass the puck. It’s my job if I can kind of pull one guy to me by holding on to the puck for a bit and then make a pass to beat someone, then it sets us up for a pretty good chance to create something off that. This time of year, every team plays really tight so you can’t do that all the time. But if it’s there, definitely it helps everyone on the ice.

“We know we’re going to practice together, we’re going to play together,” Kulak added about the defence pairings. “We pretty much know now the situations we’re going to be together on the ice, who we’re going to play against. I think that all leads to just more comfort level together. We’ve played together for a long time now, so we know where to be for each other and I think Jordie and I are kind of supporting each other well. He’s a head’s-up player, so he makes good plays and allows us to get out of our zone.”

Added Mete: “We’ve been together, I think, for about two months now. Before, it was kind of just everyone was everywhere. I think everyone’s starting to feel better out there and even in practice kind of just getting to know everyone a little bit more and everything. I think we’ve been pretty solid since January.”

What a difference a year makes

With 21 games remaining in the season, the Canadiens already have two more points than they did all of last season, when they finished 28th in the overall NHL standings with a 29-40-13 record. After 61 games last season, the Canadiens had a 23-29-9 record.

Thursday night’s game marked the 15th time this season that the Canadiens have scored five goals or more. They did that 11 times last season.

“I think from the beginning, to be honest, we had a great locker room, which I think is the most important thing,” said Tatar, who wasn’t with the Canadiens last season. “We were having a lot of fun and we’ve been working since the (training) camp. I got here, I saw we were battling, all four lines were working hard through the whole camp and I think that’s what’s happening right now. We’ve been working hard all season and we get some results.”

What’s next?

The Canadiens won’t practise on Friday as they travel to Toronto and get ready to face the Maple Leafs Saturday night (7 p.m., CBC, SN, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).

The Canadiens will then have the day off on Sunday as they head to New Jersey to face the Devils Monday night (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio). The NHL trade deadline is set for 3 p.m. on Monday.

The Canadiens will be back in action Tuesday night in Detroit against the Red Wings (7:30 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) and will then play back-to-back games next Friday night in New York against the Rangers (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) and Saturday night at the Bell Centre against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m., SNE, SNO, SN360, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).

[email protected]





You may also like...