UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Three weeks ago, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said he expected more from Max Pacioretty.
The 24-year-old left winger had eight assists but was still looking for his first goal.
The next night, Pacioretty started meeting Therrien’s expectations as he dumped the puck into the Carolina zone and headed for the bench. A moment later, the Bell Centre erupted as the fluttering puck took a strange bounce and eluded Cam Ward’s glove hand.
Since that game, Paciorettty has been on fire, with eight goals and four assists in eight games. He had four goals and three assists in the past week and that was enough to earn first star honours in the National Hockey League.
“It’s strange to think that it all started with that fluky goal,” Pacioretty said after the Canadiens worked out in preparation for Tuesday night’s game against the New York Islanders (7 p.m., RDS, TSN-690 Radio). “I scored the next game and now I’m playing with a lot of confidence and I find I’m moving my feet. This honour is great but it’s really a team award and I have to thank my teammates and the two guys on my line.”
The two guys on the line are 5-foot-7 David Desharnais, who developed some chemistry with Pacioretty when they were playing in the American Hockey League, and 5-foot-8 rookie Brendan Gallagher.
“They’re not very big guys but they both have speed and they go hard to the net,” Pacioretty said. “They work hard on the forecheck.”
Pacioretty leads the Canadiens with 20 points and his numbers are more impressive because he missed four games following an emergency appendectomy.
“That’s the story of my career,” Pacioretty said with a smile. “I’m always coming back from some adversity.”
The Canadiens dealt with some adversity Sunday night as they reclaimed first place in the Eastern Conference with a 4-3 come-from-behind win in Boston. Pacioretty tied the game at 5:31 of the third period and assisted on Desharnais’s winning goal at 9:17. Gallagher assisted on both the goals and may be playing himself into rookie-of-the-year contention. He’s third in scoring among NHL rookies and he’s tied for 10th overall in the league in plus/minus at plus-12.
“They have some chemistry but they’re having success as a line and they deserve it because they work hard,” Therrien said. “They all have speed and they never quit.”
It was the type of hard-fought game that has become the trademark of the Montreal-Boston rivalry. The turning point came when Boston defenceman Zdeno Chara was banished for 17 minutes for instigating a fight with Alexei Emelin.
“It’s easier when they don’t have their best player but I thought we played a smart, disciplined game,” Therrien said. He added that Brandon Prust gave the Canadiens a lift late in the second period when he traded punches with the much bigger Milan Lucic.
“Brandon showed a lot of courage sticking up for his teammates,” Therrien said. “We took some momentum out of that fight.”
Boston coach Claude Julien was unhappy after the game and accused the Canadiens of “embellishment” on some of the hits. Pacioretty said the comments were the result of frustration and jealousy while P.K. Subban said there was no embellishment when he was pushed into the end glass by Shawn Thornton.
“I like those games,” said Subban, who delivered five hits, blocked three shots and collected an assist in 26:49 of ice time. “I heard the crowd chanting ‘Subban sucks’ and I was wondering whether they were referring to me or my brother.”
His goaltender brother Malcolm was the Bruins’ first-round draft choice last June.
Therrien noted that he has known Julien for almost 20 years.
“I think he was frustrated but his comments were ridiculous,” Therrien said.
Peter Budaj picked up his third consecutive win in goal but Carey Price returns for the Islanders’ game. There will be no changes for the Canadiens.
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