HEFTER: Lars Eller has arrived
Lars Eller gets it.
"At some point in your career you have to define what kind of player your going to be. I feel that's where I'm at right now," said Eller following Saturday night's 3-0 win over the Rangers at the Bell Centre.
Eller and his linemates, Erik Cole and Alex Galchenyuk, each chipped in with a goal and an assist while Carey Price kicked out 17 for his second shutout of the season.
Eller, who rode the bench earlier this season, much to the dismay of many Habs fans, has seen his game steadily improve since leaving Michel Therrien's doughouse. And Saturday night he offered up the complete package: a goal, an assist, and a team-leading three hits; on a night when the Rangers outhit the Habs 32-12.
Eller credits Coach Therrien, and the work of the team's sports' psychologist, for his turnaround this season, but acknowledged that "although you can lead a horse to water, you can't force him to drink." Those were my words. These were Eller's:
"You can get the guidelines and point the player in the right direction but in the end you have to do the work yourself."
Lars Eller has been doing the work, and then some.
This one wasn't pretty over the opening 20 minutes. In fact, it was downright ugly in terms of entertainment value as the two teams skated through a first period that produced a grand total of nine shots.
Three by the Canadiens.
The Habs got it going with Cole's third of the season at 1:20 of the second period. Galchenyuk made it 2-0 at 13:36 of the middle frame with his third of the year. And Eller sealed the deal with 26 seconds to play in the middle frame: a power play goal that beat Martin Biron from well out.
Price did the rest in goal.
Max Pacioiretty, who was sandwiched into the boards by Ryan McDonagh in the second period, laboured somewhat as he made his way to the bench. But he was in high gear when he subsequently plowed into McDonagh; resulting in a two-minute boarding penalty, as an injured McDonagh was forced to leave the game.
The incident left John Tortorella fit to be tied.
"How high did Pacioretty jump on his hit?" asked the Rangers' coach when this one was over.
Brendan Gallagher returned to the Canadiens' lineup after sitting out with a concussion. Rene Bouque came down with flu-like symptoms and didn't play.