Less than 24 hours earlier, the Canadiens left Scotiabank Arena defeated. They looked defeated. They sounded defeated. After losing to the Flyers, this was a team that appeared ready, and maybe was expecting, to head back to Quebec the next night.
Instead, they scraped and clawed and scraped again to skate away with a 5-3 win in Game 5 on Wednesday night and remain in bubble hockey for a few more days.
Here are three takeaways from the Habs’ season-saving win:
Brendan Gallagher has arrived
Gallagher tickled the twine a team-leading (tied with Tomas Tatar) 22 times during the regular season, but eight games had come and gone in the postseason for the feisty winger and he still hadn’t found the back of the net.
It got so bad that in Game 4, he was benched for the majority of the last two frames and was definitely getting frustrated, which he expressed postgame. “I guess if the coach feels other guys are going to do the job better than you, that’s his job,” Gallagher said.
But from the jump in Game 5, Gallagher looked rejuvenated, and in the second period, he cashed in. With the Habs on the power play, he used a baseball-style swing to bat in his first goal of the playoffs and give Montreal a 3-2 lead. At the end of the game, after taking a cross-check to the face, a bloodied Gallagher was seen yelling at the Flyers’ bench.
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“That’s the Gally we love and that’s what he can bring to a team,” said associate coach Kirk Muller. “He brought the guys into the fight tonight. He’s a competitor. He’s a proud player. He plays hard, he works for every goal he gets and I thought he had an exceptional game.”
“He’s been getting tons of chances and he’s kind of getting down on himself for not scoring but it’s nice to get that monkey off his back there,” said Nick Suzuki, who made the pass to set him up. “I was really happy, not the greatest pass by me but he found a way to put it in.”
Nick Suzuki is good
Overshadowed by fellow rookies Quinn Hughes, Dominik Kubalik and Cale Makar, Suzuki had a pretty solid regular season with 13 goals and 28 assists in 71 games. He has continued to produce in the bubble with five points (two goals, three assists) in nine games, including the game-winner in Game 5.
Twenty-two seconds after Flyers freshman Joel Farabee tied the game 3-3 in the third period, a wide-open Suzuki converted a fantastic pass from Jonathan Drouin in front. He showed the type of maturity, poise and patience normally seen in a grizzled veteran as he went around Philadelphia goalie Carter Hart for the score.
They’re here to win
A lot of people questioned whether the Canadiens deserved to be in Toronto — after all, they were 24th in the NHL at the pause. They went on to upset the Penguins, refocused after coach Claude Julien left the team following a heart procedure and on Wednesday staved off elimination.
Muller summed things up perfectly postgame:
“This group is made up of some great character guys, great leaders, and you’re right, they could have came in here tonight and say, ‘Listen, we’re the underdogs [when] we came in, we could go home’ and people probably say, ‘You know, it’s pretty successful,’ but they’re not complacent. They’re not happy. They want to keep playing and they proved that.
“You put a game plan together but you know if they don’t play it, without heart and desire and enthusiasm, then they don’t get a win. That shows the group that we have here, is they don’t want this to end, they want to keep playing and they love playing for each other and it’s a fun group right now to be a part of.”
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