In many ways, it was a fitting return to last year’s Canadiens on Reverse Retro night. The power play struggled, they lost to the team in last place in the division, and the line of Phillip Danault, Tomas Tatar, and Brendan Gallagher led the way.
In just over 12 minutes at five-on-five, the line controlled over 75% of shot attempts, almost 79% of shots on goal, and had 15 scoring chances while allowing only three (83.3%). It was by far their best game of the season, and a positive sign of things to come considering they did it against Ottawa’s top pairing and top six.
“I think we talked about what we had to do to be better and I think we did it tonight,” Tatar said after Thursday’s game. “We created a lot of chances, we obviously could have scored more goals that’s why we can’t be happy with the result but I think the talk helped and we want to be better.”
“They were our best line by far,” said Canadiens coach Claude Julien. “They played well and we saw the chemistry they showed in the past.”
The line wasn’t just creating chances, they also scored the game’s opening goal and Danault had an assist on Josh Anderson’s shorthanded goal to make it 3-2. A lot has been said about Danault’s lack of goals but with his two assists Thursday he is up to five on the year.
“I was passive,” Danault said after Friday’s practice about his game. “When I don’t think that’s when I’m at my best and I was thinking a bit too much. The last five games, I was more on top of my game. I found my confidence.”
If this game was any indication, it will be a welcome addition to a forward group that has been very good most nights this season. The team was rolling without this line being at their best, and them getting back to that point could make things even harder for opponents.
The line, especially offensively, has struggled at times this season but if there can be any positives taken from Thursday, it is that they may just be finding their game.