In the Habs Room: 'Closer to where we want to be,' St. Louis says | Montreal Gazette

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In the Habs Room: 'Closer to where we want to be,' St. Louis says after loss to Bruins

Sam Montembeault earns praise with another strong goaltending effort.

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It wasn’t a win, but Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis said he was proud of his team’s performance against the Boston Bruins Tuesday.

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The Canadiens played the best team in hockey on even terms before Patrice Bergeron snapped a 2-2 tie with fewer than three minutes remaining. David Pastrnak capped a three-point night when he put his 37th goal of the season into an empty net for a 4-2 victory.

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“I feel we’re really on the same page and we’re getting closer to where we want to be,” St. Louis said. “We’re not perfect, no team is, but we find ways to do it together. we’re very together and it shows in the games we play. The last five, six games, we’re playing excellent teams and we’re in it, we give ourselves a chance.

“You can put your best foot forward and outwork the other guys, work as hard as the other team or harder but it doesn’t mean you’re going to win. I think we’re checking the boxes on how we want to look as a team and I’m proud of the them.”

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There was every reason to expect a rout because the Canadiens are at the bottom of the Atlantic Division and the Bruins have the best record in the NHL at 38-5-4. The win Tuesday gave them 80 points in 47 games, the fastest start in NHL history.

Sam Montembeault, who came into this game with a .937 save percentage over his last five starts, is making the most of his opportunity to grab the No. 1 spot while Jake Allen is recovering from an upper-body injury. Allen, who has missed eight games, has been practising but it’s unlikely that he will return until after the Canadiens enjoy a bye week Feb. 1-10.

Montembeault stopped 25 of 28 shots and said the game was “a little bit bitter for me.”

“The way played, we worked hard and we were right there with them until the end,” said Montembeault. “I think the way we worked tonight, we deserved at least one point.”

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While Montembeault may have been a bit down on himself, Kirby Dach put the goaltender’s play in perspective.

“Monty has been phenomenal since losing Jake,” Dach said. “He gives the team confidence, he makes big saves and he ignites the crowd. I’m happy to see him play so well.”

“Marty said before the game that this was a big test for our group and I feel like we found a way to fight back,” said Dach. “I don’t like the end result, but I’m still happy with our effort against the best team in the NHL.”

Dach scored both Montreal goals and gave the Canadiens a chance to force overtime when he tied the score at 2-2 midway through the third period.

Veteran Bergeron had an up-and-down night. He lost his first nine faceoffs but he came up big late in the third period when he won a draw against Nick Suzuki and, seconds later, he scored the winning goal.

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“Patrice isn’t one of the best players in the world by chance,” said defenceman Mike Matheson. “He never has a bad game, he’s so consistent. It’s incredible.”

Suzuki won a faceoff that led to Dach’s first goal on the power play and finished with a 57 per cent success rate in the faceoff circle, winning 12 of 19 (63 per cent) against Bergeron. Dach also has a good night in the faceoff circle, winning eight of 13 (62 per cent) while Alex Belzile, the 31-year-old journeyman, won six of eight (75 per cent) and earned the first assist on Dach’s second goal.

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