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Maybe the Canadiens should invite their former captains to every game at the Bell Centre.
Or maybe they should just let the players wear the sweaters of former captains and Hall of Famers during the pregame warmups.
Those two factors might have helped the Canadiens end their eight-game winless streak (0-5-3) with a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
“I think it brought some smiles to our face before the game,” said Brendan Gallagher, who wore Yvan Cournoyer’s No. 12 during the pregame warmup before 11 former captains were honoured at centre ice to celebrate the Canadiens’ 110th anniversary. “We had some fun. We were calling each other by the first names of the guys that we had. So we had some fun with it.”
Gallagher was Yvan (Cournoyer), Phillip Danault was Jean (Béliveau), Nate Thompson was Bob (Gainey), Jesperi Kotkaniemi was Kirk (Muller), Artturi Lehkonen was Saku (Koivu), Shea Weber was Larry (Robinson), Ben Chiarot was Serge (Savard), Nick Cousins was Guy (Carbonneau), Jeff Petry was Chris (Chelios) and Carey Price was Jacques (Plante).
“A lot of captains in our room before the game,” Gallagher said with a grin. “We weren’t short of leadership. I think it was kind of fun to wear those jerseys and represent them because we obviously know how special it is to be a Montreal Canadien and those are the names that are a big reason why.”
Danault, Gallagher, Petry and Weber (empty net) scored for the Canadiens, who improved their record to 12-10-6, while the Islanders fell to 18-6-2. Carey Price made 21 saves for the victory as the Canadiens outshot the Islanders 40-23.
The Canadiens moved within one point of the Florida Panthers (13-9-5) and Buffalo Sabres (13-10-5), who are tied for second place in the Atlantic Division.
Fitting ending for Weber
On captains’ reunion night, it was fitting that Weber scored the empty-net goal that clinched the victory. Weber finished the game with a goal and an assist in 29:49 of ice time and was plus-3.
“He’s our captain and that’s what captains do,” coach Claude Julien said after the game. “They lead not only on the ice, but they lead off the ice. They got their what we call their core group of guys. There’s other people that support him that do a job behind the scenes that nobody else sees except for them and sometimes the coaches. And even sometimes the coaches aren’t aware of all the stuff they’ll do behind closed doors. That’s always been the case in hockey. But he’s a leader and he’s a captain and it’s not by default. He brings a lot.”
Some puck luck
At the Canadiens’ optional morning skate Tuesday in Brossard, Julien talked about how his team needed a bit of puck luck to get out of their slump.
“I can’t say enough of the last couple of games where I think we’ve done a good enough job that we could have easily won both games,” Julien said about a 4-3 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and a 3-1 defeat against the Boston Bruins. “It could have gone the other way. But right now I think in order to turn things around you need to play really, really well and we’re going to need a little bit of puck luck.
“I’ve won a Stanley Cup (with the Bruins in 2011) and I can stand here and tell you had I not had any puck luck, or had we not had any puck luck, we wouldn’t have won the Stanley Cup. So that’s part of the game. There’s certain things you can control and certain things you can’t. All we can control right now is our effort and playing well and hoping that along the way maybe the bounce goes your way vs. against you.”
That puck luck finally came when Danault opened the scoring Tuesday night with 0.1 seconds left on the clock in the first period.
“It was one of those things where you need a break at some point,” Julien said after the game. “I thought we played a really good first period, but to come in the dressing room ahead 1-0 was a big difference vs. 0-0. You say: Geez, we’re playing well but we’re still in a tie game here.’ When I say puck luck or a break, I think that’s one of the things you’re looking for and we got that at the end of the first period.”
Happy for the coach
There was a longer than usual wait before Julien showed up for his postgame news conference and you can only imagine the sense of relief he must have felt when he arrived.
Danault was very happy for his coach.
“I’m really happy for Claude and us as a team,” said Danault, who had a goal and an assist and was plus-2. “Claude has been working hard for us, staying positive. It’s never easy as a coach to be down there, too, and they all stuck with us. The whole staff stuck with us as a team. We were one … nobody was separated. Everybody was in there in the same boat and Claude was definitely a positive vibe for us.”
Danault was also thrilled to see the 11 former captains at centre ice before the game.
“It was awesome,” he said. “All the memories from back in the days. Not all the guys were there when I was born, but it was obviously an honour to be there and see all those guys who were true leaders for the Montreal Canadiens history.”
Not a sellout
The ceremony with the 11 former captains wasn’t enough to generate a sellout with a crowd of 20,440 at the Bell Centre, which has a capacity of 21,302.
The Canadiens have now failed to sell out nine of their first 16 home games and have a 7-6-3 record at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens still rank second in NHL attendance with an average crowd of 21,009 (98.8 per cent capacity), trailing only the Chicago Blackhawks, who are averaging 21,364.
Chiarot led the Canadiens in ice time with a whopping 30:47 and finished plus-2 with five blocked shots.
Gallagher had a goal and an assist, was plus-1 and had a team-leading six shots. Kotkaniemi led the Canadiens with six hits.
Matthew Peca, who was called up from the AHL’s Laval Rocket on Monday, had only 9:08 of ice time. The only Canadiens with less ice time were Jordan Weal (8:57) and Gustav Olofsson (5:59).
Petry had gone 21 games without a goal before scoring in the third period. His hadn’t scored since Oct. 15 and now has three goals on the season.
The Canadiens won only 38 per cent of the faceoffs in the game.
Charles Hudon and Mike Reilly were the healthy scratches for the Canadiens.
The three stars
Weber was the first star, Gallagher was the second star and Danault was the third star.
After the victory, Julien decided to cancel a scheduled practice for Wednesday and give his players a day off. The Canadiens will be back in action Thursday night when the Colorado Avalanche will be at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio). The Canadiens will fly to New York after that game and play the Rangers Friday night (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) before enjoying a rare Saturday off.
Next week, the Canadiens will visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) and then play the Ottawa Senators Wednesday at the Bell Centre (7:30 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) followed by a visit from the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday (7 p.m., SNE, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019