Canadiens’ Harvey-Pinard proves he belongs with strong effort in loss to Red Wings

Rafael Harvey-Pinard scored two goals and recorded an assist, but Moritz Seider had three assists and was key for Detroit as the Red Wings defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime.

MONTREAL — He could picture it nearly every time he closed his eyes as a kid growing up in Saguenay, Que. — a rush the length of the ice at the Bell Centre culminating with his arms in the air to celebrate a shot he ripped off the bar and into the net for a goal that sent the fans into a frenzy.

On Thursday night, Rafael Harvey-Pinard realized that vision twice within the span of 11:42 of the second period of a 4-3 Montreal Canadiens overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

They were beautiful goals, and they were scored on top of an assist he produced in the first period.

The 24-year-old finished the night with three points, four hits, three blocked shots, first-star honours, and with eyes wide open.

This was a game that distanced Harvey-Pinard from the fairy tale and had him reckoning with the reality that he’s arrived in the NHL and can stay in it for more than a cup of coffee. With the Canadiens wearing pale blue reverse retro jerseys instead of the signature red he’d have pictured himself in on all those nights as a kid, he didn’t have to pinch himself.

And if it didn’t feel that way to Harvey-Pinard throughout, it had to have really sunk in for him when coach Martin St. Louis sent him over the boards for the 4-on-3 power-play shift the Canadiens started overtime with.

That move by St. Louis is something every player on the bench would’ve appreciated. He gave the fourth-line winger, who was called up from Laval four games prior, a chance to score a hat trick and play overtime hero.

“I think that’s the ex-player in him, too. The Hall of Fame player, not just the coach,” Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen said moments after Robby Fabbri beat him on a 2-on-1 rush to notch a key win for the Red Wings.

That Harvey-Pinard deserved it, in just his 13th game in the league, will do wonders for his self-belief.

His final shot of the game was a wicked one-timer that Ville Husso made a great save on, and not scoring on it did little to dull the confidence he was feeling afterward.

“The more I play, the more comfortable I feel, the more I see that I’m good here,” Harvey-Pinard said. “It’s up to me to continue to show it game after game and to keep working to prove I deserve my spot here.”

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The way the former seventh-round pick, who was passed over in each of his first two years of eligibility for the NHL Draft, scored his goals and played this game can make a believer of anyone. With skill and finesse to finish, on top of his smart positioning and relentless pursuit of the puck, he’s really coming into his own.

“I don’t think he had a bad shift,” said St. Louis, who gave him 19 and played him in all situations and for 16:07. “I think his touches were great. Obviously, you have a game like that, you think it’s going to build confidence and give you a little more. I guess the most important thing as a player is to convince yourself that you can be that guy.”

That’s exactly what Harvey-Pinard is doing.

That’s what Michael Pezzetta has been doing since he got his chance to play after being scratched for Montreal’s first eight games of the season.

He was scratched on other occasions and used sparingly at times through his 28 games before Thursday’s, but he had a goal and an assist in 13:43 against the Wings and will take a lot from that.

“You definitely feel like you belong more,” Pezzetta said about the opportunity he earned.

That’s how Alex Belzile felt as well, which is big considering he’s 31 and was playing in just his 16th NHL game.

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Him, Pezzetta and Harvey-Pinard were a dominant line against a Red Wings team battling tooth and nail for a playoff spot. And they were rewarded and relied on heavily, with only 11 Canadiens forwards dressed and the team reduced to playing with nine for several minutes because Kirby Dach was serving a fighting major after pummeling Andrew Copp while Christian Dvorak was getting treatment in the dressing room.

“You gotta tip your hat to them,” said Allen. “No wonder that’s the only line where we’re playing with 11 forwards and no one’s splitting up really for the most part. And they got all three goals.”

The two off Harvey-Pinard’s stick were highlights, with one of them being a gorgeous backhand to complete a beautiful short-handed rush Dach started.

They won’t be the last to resemble the ones he always pictured himself scoring at the Bell Centre.

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