Subban answers critics with crowd-pleasing effort

Paul Byron scored in the fifth round of a shootout and the Montreal Canadiens beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 Friday night to end a three-game losing streak.

MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens defencemen P.K. Subban didn’t just diffuse 48 hours worth of controversy, he tied a bow on it and kissed it goodbye.

“I’ve always been told that people can criticize you as a person and criticize your character,” Subban said after Montreal’s 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers at the Bell Centre Friday. “The one thing that’s very difficult to do when you perform is criticize your play.

“For me, my numbers speak for themselves. If anybody wants to criticize my play on the ice, well, I tell ‘em to look at the numbers. Look at the production over the last six years. Find me a handful of defencemen that have done what I’ve done in this league.

“I play for the crest on the front of the jersey, but if people want to be critical, they don’t need to say anything; just look at the numbers. That’ll shut ‘em up pretty quickly.”

Those comments weren’t directly pointed at Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, who had singled out Subban for a turnover that led to the winning goal in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche; they were a message to all those that have taken their shots at Subban’s play since he entered the league as a 19-year-old.

It was the final message Subban delivered on this night.

The man played a herculean 30 minutes and 55 seconds, he set up both goals the Canadiens scored in regulation, and he set up two can’t-miss chances in overtime that forwards Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk would’ve had nightmares about had the Canadiens not prevailed in the skills competition.

Subban’s master class in selflessness continued after the game was put to bed by Canadiens forward Paul Byron in the fifth round of the shootout.

As the game’s first star, Subban stood at centre ice to answer some questions in front of the Bell Centre faithful.

“A really good player and mentor to me, (former teammate and defence partner) Hal Gill, used to ask me whenever I had two-point games, he’d say, ‘P.K. how many points did we get tonight?’ And I’d say, ‘Two points.’ And he’d say, ‘Your two points or the team’s?’

“The only thing that matters is that we got two points as a team.”

Subban was pressed about his response to his coach’s criticism.

“You know, I’ve never shied away from criticism or from my coach being tough on me,” he said. “I think that it’s important; it makes me a better player.”

And then, just like that, Subban shifted gears.

“I think the most important thing for us was our leadership group tonight and our captain Max Pacioretty led the way with a big tying goal on the power play and a big tying goal in the shootout to keep it going. That’s what it takes,” he said.

Subban also acknowledged goaltender Mike Condon’s great effort, turning aside 35 shots — most of them coming after allowing a back-breaking goal in the first period, just 10 seconds after Dale Weise opened the scoring.

Condon stopped four of five shots in the shootout.

When asked if he had anything more to add, Subban grabbed the mic and bellowed, “J’adore Montreal!”

The comment was met with a rousing ovation — one of many on the night, with the crowd chanting his name each time he touched the puck in the first period of the game.

“He played well, he controlled the puck, and the overtime was pretty exciting,” said Therrien. “In general, I really liked his game. He was really solid.”

There was nothing more to say.

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