Habs continue to roll with win over Leafs
TORONTO — Winning was the best redemption for Mac Pacioretty and the Montreal Canadiens.
Pacioretty scored twice to lead the Canadiens to an impressive 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night, and emphatically avenge an embarrassing 6-0 home loss Feb. 9 to their arch rivals.
There was bad blood between the two longtime rivals in that last meeting when an alleged biting incident involving Mikhail Grabovski and Pacioretty took place. But instead of physical retaliation, the Canadiens effectively used their speed to outplay Toronto, cementing the win on third-period goals by rookie Brendan Gallagher, Pacioretty and Brian Gionta.
“The coaches talked to us before the game about sticking to our gameplan and not getting sucked into the emotions of the game,” Pacioretty said. “I think we did a great job of that.”
Defenceman Josh Gorges agreed.
“There’s always a lot of different ideas, different emotions especially after the last way we played these guys about how do we get back,” he said. “It’s not about grabbing somebody and jumping them and feeding them punches because that really doesn’t do us any good in the long run.
“It may feel good for a few minutes if that opportunity did ever come but ultimately two points always feels better.”
Gallagher scored his sixth of the season at 9:08 of the third to break a 2-2 tie before Pacioretty clinched the win for Eastern Conference-leading Montreal (13-4-3) with his sixth at 14:26. Gionta scored into the empty net at 17:34.
Since being shut out by Toronto, the streaking Canadiens have gone 7-0-2 and outshot the Leafs 40-23 before a season-high Air Canada Centre gathering of 19,625.
Toronto also earned a 2-1 road win over Montreal in the season opener for both but dropped to 4-5-0 this season at the Air Canada Centre.
“The Maple Leafs played two terrific games at the Bell Centre and we knew we had to bounce back from those type of games,” Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien said. “We certainly played a great team game and stuck to our plan and we were controlling our emotion to play that game.
“Right from the get go I thought our guys were ready to play and we set the tone for that game. They tried to be physical on us but I was not afraid of that, honestly . . . we just kept focusing on the things we had to do to be successful.”
Therrien also heaped lavish praise on Gallagher.
“He’s got one way to play,” Therrien said. “He’s playing hard and start to earn respect not only from his teammates I believe but around the league. He’s a kid that plays with emotion.
“That was a big play for him, well deserved.”
The loss tarnished an outstanding performance by Toronto goaltender Ben Scrivens. The lanky Albertan, making his eighth straight start, kept the Leafs in the game despite being badly outplayed.
“We were flat, flat, flat, flat,” said Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle. “It looked like at times that we were playing in our boots and they were playing on skates.
“We just didn’t get anything going for ourselves. I don’t think there’s any way to paint it pretty and I’m sure you guys will give us a lot of help.”
Defenceman Alexei Emelin had the other goal for Montreal.
Frazer McLaren and Clarke MacArthur scored for Toronto (12-9-0), which had won three straight at home.
The Canadiens had forward Michael Ryder in the lineup after re-acquiring the former Hab from the Dallas Stars this week for Erik Cole. Ryder didn’t figure in the scoring but wore his usual No. 73 after Gallagher gave it up for No. 11.
Ryder has had No. 73 since breaking into the NHL in ’03.