The Montreal Canadiens are ending a western road swing with a renewed sense of confidence.
A late-game power-play goal from Jonathan Drouin propelled the team to a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
Drouin buried the puck with less than three minutes to go, just seconds after Vancouver defenceman Michael Del Zotto was booked for interference.
The Canadiens have struggled to capitalize when they have a man-advantage this year. The team’s power play was ranked second-last in the league going into Saturday’s match up.
“When that confidence isn’t quite there, you are still trying to fight to get the rhythm of your power play going,” said Montreal’s head coach, Claude Julien. “But that goal tonight couldn’t have come at a better time.”
The Vancouver game caps a trip that saw the Habs drop a 6-2 decision in Edmonton on Tuesday, then skate away with a 3-2 victory in Calgary on Thursday.
Drouin said his goal on Saturday was reminiscent of how the team had played earlier in the week.
“It brings back some of that Calgary game a little bit, where you are down a goal on the road and you have to show character, you’ve got to find a way to put the puck in,” the 23-year-old centreman said.
“If you look at our tying goals they’re not pretty, they’re just around the net and that’s something we can build on.”
Tomas Tatar and Andrew Shaw also scored for the Canadiens (11-6-3), while Del Zotto and Elias Pettersson responded for the Canucks (10-10-2).
Carey Price stopped 36-of-38 shots for Montreal and Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom made 28 saves.
Price got off to a rocky start this season but Julien said he’s now “back to being Carey.”
“He’s calm, he’s making saves. Sometimes a little step backwards and time to refocus is not a bad thing,” the coach said. “These goalies play under pressure every game. A lot of times they are either responsible for the win or they are responsible for the loss so it’s good he had that break.”
The netminder said he had a lot of help from his defenders and called Saturday’s game “a big character win.”
“It’s definitely good to get a couple bounce back games after Edmonton and make it a successful road trip,” Price said.
The Canucks have now lost five games in a row.
Early in the season, Vancouver found ways to win tight match ups, tallying victories against tough teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins.
“That’s the NHL though,” said Canucks head coach Travis Green. “You’re going to play well and you’re going to lose some games when you play well. And you’re going to find a way to win games when you don’t play well. And you hope you’re on the right end of those nights more often.”
Pettersson said his team simply has to find ways to win again.
“We’ve just got to face the reality and be better. We can’t hide from it. We’ve just got to be better,” said the 20-year-old rookie, who’s been an offensive juggernaut for Vancouver, tallying 18 points in his first 16 NHL games.
Saturday night’s loss was frustrating for Markstrom, too. The goalie said there may have been some bad bounces, but he’ll review some video on Sunday to see what happened.
“We’ve got to win hockey games. I don’t care how it looks but we’ve got to win, especially those tight games,” he said.