TORONTO — Brendan Gallagher must be a masochist.
How else do you explain a 5-foot-8 dynamo who seems to invite opposition players to hit him?
Gallagher absorbed a number of hits, including a monster blow from 6-foot-3 Dion Phaneuf, but he kept bouncing up and he provided the winning goal as the Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre.
“I like those games,” said Gallagher, who deflected Josh Gorges’s shot from the blue line at 9:08 of the third period. “I like it when I get hit. It helps me get into the game. It’s good to get a big goal and it’s even better to get the win.”
Gorges said he was surprised to find himself with the puck.
“(Tyler) Bozak seemed to be standing up before the faceoff and Davey (Desharnais) won it clean, but I thought they might call it back,” Gorges said. “When there was no whistle, I saw there was a lane there and I just wanted to get the puck to the net and Gally was there to tip it.”
“When you get embarrassed at home, you want to play well,” said Gallagher, who has five shots on goal. “We pressured them tonight and then took over in the third. Our strength is our speed and we used it to beat them.”
Coach Michel Therrien was quick to praise Gallagher, who has six goals on the season, including two game-winners.
“He’s got one way to play and he’s playing hard,” Therrien said. “He’s starting to earn respect, not only from his teammates but around the league.”
Max Pacioretty scored his fifth and sixth goals of the season and said the Canadiens did a good job of keeping their composure after the last game between the two rivals was marked by a succession of fights and penalties.
“They tried to suck us in, but we kept our cool,” Pacioretty said. “We want everybody on our team on the ice. We don’t think it’s a fair trade-off if both teams take penalties and we end up playing 4-on-4. The coaches had us well prepared without being overly emotional. The first few times we played them, we got caught up in that stuff, but tonight we were able to use our speed to control the game.
The Canadiens took only one penalty and Pacioretty scored after the Leafs’ Mike Brown was handed a five-minute major for pushing Gorges into the boards.
Pacioretty scored on a rebound with six seconds remaining in the penalty after missing an open net a few minutes earlier.
“I’ve never had that happen to me since I was 5 years old,” Pacioretty said. “I score on that all the time in practice and I can’t believe that happened.
“The guys said I deserved to have that one go off a shin pad (on the goal) but it would have been nice to score on the first chance. I was frustrated, but we knew as long as we have (Andrei Markov) on the point, we were going to get chances.”
The Canadiens limited the Leafs to 23 shots, including only four in the first period.
“We feel the best defence is to keep them from getting the puck in our end,” Pacioretty said. “We get a lot of shots and they’re not always good ones, but we grind teams down by playing in their end and that allows us to come on strong in the third period.”
Carey Price posted his league-leading 11th win and he stopped a penalty shot by Mikhail Grabovski in the second period when the Canadiens were nursing a 2-1 lead.
“I know Grabo a little and I had an idea of what he wanted to do,” Price said. “I was patient on the shot and I waited until he went out to his forehand and he just ran out of room.”
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