Mike Cammalleri’s first six games with the Montreal Canadiens didn’t provide the offensive production they expected after signing the speedy winger to a $30 million deal in the offseason.
His last four, however, have more than fit the bill.
Cammalleri’s scoring binge included a hat trick in his latest game, and he’ll look to lift the Canadiens to their fourth straight win Monday night when they close a six-game homestand by facing the New York Islanders for the second time in five days.
Four of Montreal’s top six goal-scorers from last season became unrestricted free agents July 1, but general manager Bob Gainey was prepared to assemble a new top offensive unit. He traded for center Scott Gomez(notes) on June 30, then a day later added Cammalleri and Brian Gionta(notes) via free agency.
Gionta had four goals in his first eight games, but Cammalleri had only four assists for the Canadiens (5-5-0) in his first six contests. He’s turned it around with five goals in his last four, though, and registered his third career hat trick Saturday night against the Rangers. He opened the scoring in the first period, tied it at 4 late in the second, and gave Montreal a 5-4 come-from-behind victory on an unassisted goal 2:42 into overtime.
“I think most goal scorers tend to produce in bunches,” Cammalleri, who scored 39 goals with Calgary last season, told the Canadiens’ official Web site. “I just go out there trying to score on every shift.”
Gomez and Gionta had two assists apiece, with Gionta assisting on Cammalleri’s first two scores.
“He’s a creative player,” Gionta said. “He’s a goal scorer but he also sees the ice extremely well and he finds that open guy when it’s there.”
Montreal hasn’t won four in a row since Feb. 21-28, but figures to have a good chance to make that happen against the Islanders (1-4-4). Cammalleri was one of five Canadiens to score Thursday in a 5-1 win over New York, and has one goal in all three career games against the Islanders.
New York is still looking for a regulation win, and it’s had some rough luck when a game’s gone longer than 60 minutes. The Islanders have lost twice in shootouts and twice in overtime, including Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Washington after blowing a two-goal lead in the third period.
They’ve been outscored 16-6 in the final 20 minutes.
“We think we had a good effort, but we should’ve gotten the two points.”
Only Florida and Toronto are averaging fewer than the 2.11 goals the Islanders have scored, and top overall draft pick John Tavares(notes) doesn’t have a point in his past three games after recording three goals and four assists in his first six.
It’s unclear who will be in goal for the Islanders. Dwayne Roloson(notes) (1-1-3, 3.36 goals-against average) started Saturday, while Martin Biron(notes) (0-3-1, 3.57 GAA) played in the loss at Montreal.
There’s equal uncertainty surrounding the Canadiens’ starter, but it would seem difficult for coach Jacques Martin to go back to Carey Price(notes) given the way backup Jaroslav Halak(notes) has played. He’s been the starter for all three recent Montreal wins, posting a 1.91 GAA, and is 3-1-0 with a 1.25 GAA lifetime against the Islanders.