MONTREAL — Saturday night was special for Rafael Harvey-Pinard and the Bell Centre crowd, as well as his teammates, made sure to remind him.
Harvey Pinard electrified the crowd by scoring his first career hat trick as the Montreal Canadiens crushed the Columbus Blue Jackets 8-2.
The Saguenay, Que, native received a standing ovation following his third goal and another one after being named the first star of the game. In the dressing room, a player had covered up part of his name plate. It read: “R. Hatty-Pinard.”
“Honestly, it's tough to describe,” Harvey-Pinard said. “I had chills. I was just hearing the crowd, it was so loud. That was a good moment. I was enjoying it at 100 per cent.”
Sitting next to him on the Habs bench as public address announcer Michel Lacroix called his name for the third time was Brendan Gallagher. Harvey-Pinard, who never shied away from saying that he looked up to the 30-year-old, received a few words from Gallagher in the moment.
“I was trying to get him to stand up and salute the crowd,” Gallagher said with a grin. “He’s a little smarter than that, he didn't fall for it. It was fun to see him smiling.”
“He’s someone that I’ve watched play for a long time and it’s a really nice moment when he tells me that,” Harvey-Pinard said. “I tried to enjoy it as much as possible and I will obviously remember that for the rest of my life.”
Nick Suzuki had one goal and three assists while Mike Hoffman scored one goal and added two assists. Gallagher and Jesse Ylonen both picked up one goal and one assist. Alex Belzile also scored for Montreal while Mike Matheson collected three helpers.
Sam Montembeault made 20 saves as the Canadiens (29-38-6) recorded back-to-back home wins.
“I think we gave a good show tonight and our fans deserve it,” said Habs coach Martin St. Louis. “I’ve been here for 15 months and I’ve always felt them behind us.
“Of course we’d like to be in a better spot to give them playoff hockey but to have that support is fantastic and we don’t take that for granted.”
Lane Pederson and Kirill Marchenko scored for Columbus (23-42-7), who failed to record their first three-game win streak of the season on the second night of back-to-back games.
Elvis Merzlikins made 16 saves before leaving the game with an injury with 2:58 remaining in the second period. In relief, Michael Hutchinson made five saves.
“I don’t even know if it was an energy thing, it’s more that we shot ourselves in the foot time and time again,” said Pederson. “Obviously, a frustrating second period and we’re chasing the rest of the game.”
Despite the loss, the Blue Jackets were the first to score — only 1:32 into the game. Kent Johnson located Pederson in front of the net with a backhand pass and the forward completed the one-timer.
The Canadiens responded just over two minutes later. Hoffman, sporting a full-face visor after receiving a cross-check to the face from A.J. Greer in Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, beat Merzlikins with a wrist shot.
Montreal took its first lead of the game at 9:43 of the first. Ylonen took advantage of Brendan Gallagher’s screen in front of the net to send a wrist shot from atop the left faceoff circle.
Marchenko took a shot from a tight angle over Montembeault’s shoulder to tie the game but the net was knocked loose in the process. After video review, it was determined that the puck had crossed the goal line before the net was dislodged and the goal was allowed.
Harvey-Pinard helped Montreal regain their lead with a second-period hat trick.
Immediately after the opening faceoff, Matheson rushed along the boards and drove to the net. Merzlikins made the save but Harvey-Pinard zoomed into the crease to tap in Montreal’s third goal.
Harvey-Pinard then bagged his second goal of the night with a wrister from the left faceoff circle.
Gallagher gave Montreal a 5-3 lead by finding his way in the slot amongst the five Jackets skaters. He accepted Ylonen’s pass from behind the net to notch the one-timer.
Harvey-Pinard completed his hat trick before the end of the second. The winger redirected Hoffman’s pass past Merzlikins and the hats rained on the ice.
“The second period killed us, that’s what it was,” said Jackets coach Brad Larsen. “We didn’t skate enough, we didn’t manage the puck at all.”
Montreal added a seventh goal in the final frame when Belzile’s pass for Chris Tierney on the rush deflected off Columbus defenceman Andrew Peeke and into the net.
Suzuki completed his four-point night by piercing through Columbus’ zone and beating Hutchinson with a wrist shot from the slot.
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins left the game with an injury in the second period. The Latvian appeared to have suffered the injury while attempting to make a save on the play resulting in Rafael Harvey-Pinard’s hat trick goal. Micheal Hutchinson took over in relief.
Brad Larson did not have an update on Merzlikins following the game.
The Columbus Blue Jackets made two emergency recalls before Saturday’s game. Forward Trey Fix-Wolansky and defenceman Jake Christiansen were tapped in to replace the injured Mathieu Olivier and Erik Gudbranson, respectively. Fix-Wolansky played in his 11th NHL game while Christiansen skated in the 27th of his young career.
The Canadiens head to Buffalo to play the Sabres on Monday.
The Blue Jackets visit the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2023.
Tristan D'Amours, The Canadian Press