MONTREAL — Brandon Prust said he was just trying to keep up with rookie Alex Galchenyuk when he suddenly found the winning goal on his stick early in the third period of the Canadiens’ 3-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night at the Bell Centre.
“When he goes into his dangling mode, you have to make sure you don’t stop and watch,” said Prust, whose goal at 2:06 of the third period snapped a 0-0 tie and launched the Canadiens to their fourth consecutive win.
“You try to keep up with him and I’ve learned to always keep my stick on the ice when he’s got the puck because he’ll find you when you don’t think he’s going to get it to you,” Prust said.
In this case, Galchenyuk wasn’t trying to get the puck to Prust. He was on the rush with Lars Eller but when he tried to get the puck to Eller, it was deflected by a Carolina defender and found its way to Prust’s stick.
“I obviously wanted to make a good play, but that wasn’t what I expected,” Galchenyuk said.
Prust said the Canadiens went to great pains to point out to Galchenyuk that it wasn’t a picture play.
“We want to keep him humble and make sure he’s still working hard,” Prust said. “He has all the tools and all the skills, and it’s about growing from there.”
Coach Michel Therrien said his team has been growing since the beginning of the season and “we’ve learned how to play in these tight games. We didn’t get away from our system. Good teams are comfortable playing this type of game and we’ve looked comfortable in these situations.”
“You’re never really satisfied,” Prust said. “You can always play better. We’re going to be hard on ourselves and that’s what’s going to make us better. We played great defensively the last two games, but there are still things we have to fine-tune.”
One of those things is the power play, which went 0-for-4 and is 1-for-20 over the past five games. But Therrien said it wasn’t time to panic over the lack of success.
“You can’t just judge results,” Therrien said. “We made some adjustments and did better. We didn’t capitalize, but you have to give credit to the other team. They played pretty well just as we did a good job on our penalty-kill.”
Defensively, the Canadiens allowed the opposition only 19 shots for the second consecutive game and Peter Budaj has received solid support in both of those games.
“It’s tough,” Budaj said when asked about maintaining his concentration. “They’re a very good, hard-working team and they never give up, but we stuck to the system and worked as a team.”
The win evened Budaj’s season record at 2-2 as he posted his first shutout since Nov. 6, 2010 when he backstopped the Colorado Avalanche to a win over Dallas.
Budaj said the Canadiens had some lucky bounces and one of them led to Max Pacioretty’s first goal of the season, a knuckleball from outside the blue line that eluded Cam Ward’s glove hand.
Of course, Ward might have been getting his heartbeat back to normal after Tomas Plekanec beat him 18 seconds earlier with a high, hard shot that bounced in off the goalie’s left shoulder.
“I saw the (defenceman) backing up and I got off a pretty good shot,” said Plekanec, who leads the Canadiens in goals (eight) and points (13).
Budaj laughed at a suggestion that he was putting pressure on Carey Price, who will face the New York Rangers Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
“He’s No. 1 and I’m just glad that I can come in and get a couple of wins,” Budaj said. “It definitely helps my confidence, especially when the team plays well in front of me.”
The New York game will mark a homecoming for Prust, who signed with the Canadiens as a free agent last summer after three seasons with the Rangers.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Prust said. “It was my home there for about three years and I enjoyed playing there and I enjoyed the city. I’m looking forward to being back in Madison Square Garden. This is my first time back and it will be different to be on the other side.”
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“When he goes into his dangling mode, you have to make sure you don’t stop and watch,” says Canadiens Brandon Prust of rookie Alex Galchenyuk, centre, after the pair tamed up for the eventual winning goal Monday night against the Hurricanes.
Photograph by: Allen McInnis, The Gazette