NEW YORK — Michel Therrien is happy to see that Lars Eller has learned that the best offence stems from good defence.
The Canadiens beat the New York Rangers 3-1 Tuesday night after Eller put the winning goal in motion by blocking a shot from Marc Staal.
“It starts with the defence,” Eller said. “We break up a play, and small things make a difference because it goes from being a 3-on-1 for them to a 3-on-1 for us.”
The 3-on-1 included some slick passing between Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Prust, who fed the puck into the crease where Galchenyuk and Eller were both waiting.
“We were hungry around the net,” Eller said. “Any one of us could have scored that goal, but Prusty was nice. He tried to give it to me, but Alex stole it.”
“Was that pass to you?” Galchenyuk asked.”I thought it was to me.”
The fact is it didn’t matter as all three earned a point on the goal at 1:48 of the third period and Therrien anointed the trio as “our best line out there tonight.”
It was the second goal of the season for Galchenyuk, but he also has eight assists and leads the team with a plus-9.
“He’s been coming up with key plays every game,” Therrien said of the 19-year-old. “He had one last night and last week on the winning goal in Florida.”
Prust has been with Eller and Galchenyuk for a week and said he likes the chemistry.
“We’ve been creating some good energy,” Prust said. “They’re highly skilled and I try to get them the puck as much as I can.”
Prust was playing at Madison Square Garden as a visitor for the first time in his career and admitted to being nervous “until I got I got a few shifts in. It was a strange feeling and I wasn’t able to get a good nap in this afternoon.”
Prust handed out four hits and was on the ice for all three of the Montreal goals.
“He’s a gamer,” Therrien said. “We like him a lot and it was a special game for him. I thought he was a real warrior out there tonight.”
The game started off slowly for both teams. There were no shots in the first nine minutes and the Canadiens didn’t get their first shot until the 16:11 mark.
“I looked up at the scoreboard at one point and I thought it was strange that there were no shots,” Carey Price said.
Therrien said the Canadiens may have been tired because they played in Montreal Monday night and didn’t arrive at their hotel until 2:30 a.m.
“You have to give credit to the Rangers,” Therrien said. “They knew that we played last night, that we came in late and didn’t have the same energy we usually have. We had only three shots and they had only five and we knew we needed a good defensive effort to have a tight game.”
A breakdown in the second period led to the Rangers only goal by Anton Stralman and Therrien said it was important that Max Pacioretty score before the period ended.
“That as an important goal because we lost some of our energy when they scored,” Therrien said.
The Rangers had a last-gasp effort when Tomas Plekanec took a tripping penalty at 16:54 of the third period and Rangers head coach John Tortorella pulled Henrik Lundqvist to gain a 6-on-4 advantage. The ploy backfired when Price made a big save on Brad Richards and Raphael Diaz scored a short-handed goal in an empty net.
Tortorella summed up his feelings on the game by saying: “I thought it was probably one of the worst hockey games I’ve ever been involved in, both teams, but they were better than we were.”
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