Lars Eller and his young linemates picked a good time to break out of a slump.
Eller and Alex Galchenyuk each had a goal and two assists and Brendan Gallagher had two points as the Montreal Canadiens ended a four-game winless run with a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Sunday night.
All three started the season on fire but cooled off in recent weeks, so a big game and a much-needed win was just what their line and the Canadiens needed.
“When you’re losing and you want to help the team by scoring, it takes a toll on you,” said Eller, who had picked up only two assists in the 12 previous games. “But there was never any panic.
“In a lot of the games we played well and were creating chances. The puck just wasn’t going in. Today it did and it was nice to get a win.”
Michael Bournival also scored for Montreal (9-8-1), as Canadiens coach Michel Therrien earned his 250th career NHL win.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brock Nelson had goals for the Islanders (6-9-3), who ended a four-game road trip without earning a point.
The Islanders were playing a second game in less than 24 hours and were without recently acquired forward Thomas Vanek, who suffered an upper-body injury in a 5-2 loss Saturday night in Columbus.
“Everyone finds a way to do what they have to do at this level,” said Nelson, who sat out the Columbus game. “I think everyone did a good job. We had good energy from the start, so I don’t think it was a factor.”
The Eller-Galchenyuk-Gallagher unit had a combined 19 points through Montreal’s first five games of the season, but points have been harder to come by of late as the entire team struggled to put the puck in the net. The squad had only seven goals in the four previous games.
But everything clicked together against the struggling Islanders.
“For some reason we just have that chemistry,” said Eller, who has been briefly moved to other lines at times recently to try to shake up the attack. “Things just come naturally.
“Everybody’s playing on their instincts, so there’s not too much hesitation.”
It started with the opening goal 1:46 into the second period when Galchenyuk sent Gallagher in on the right side for a wrist shot that beat backup goalie Kevin Poulin, who started in place of Evgeni Nabokov.
Eller’s turn came at 16:34 on a power play when he one-timed Galchenyuk’s cross-ice pass inside the far post from the right circle.
Galchenyuk got his goal at 10:37 of the third frame as he completed a tic-tac-toe play with his linemates, tipping the puck in from the edge of the crease after Gallagher had caused a turnover in the New York zone.
The line combined for 10 of Montreal’s 31 shots. New York shot 26 at Carey Price.
“They did a lot of a good things as well as contributing on offence,” said Therrien. “I like how they pressured the puck carrier and created a lot of turnovers.”
New York’s penalty killing woes on their road trip continued as Montreal went 2 for 5 with the man advantage. The Isles killed only nine-of-17 penalties in the four games.
The good news was their power play scored twice, ending an 0-for-22 drought spanning their previous seven games.
Bouchard beat Price with a shot from the top of the left circle to tie the game 1-1 at 7:23 of the second frame.
And Nelson saw a John Tavares pass from behind the net go in off his skate 4:10 into the third. The goal passed video review.
“I knew I got a little piece of my stick on it and I felt it hit my foot, but I knew I didn’t kick it in any way,” the rookie centre said of his second career goal. “It was kind of a lucky bounce.”
Notes: Montreal forward Travis Moen left after the first period with a flu. . . . Forward Gabriel Dumont was called up from AHL Hamilton to play and George Parros sat out. . . . IIHF president Rene Fasel was in attendance, as was former Soviet goaltending great Vladislav Tretiak, who was applauded by the Bell Centre crowd. . . . Hard times for struggling Canadiens centre David Desharnais: Even new Montreal mayor Denis Coderre tweeted that he should be given a one-way ticket to Hamilton.