Tomas Tatar hoping Game 6 vs. Leafs isn’t his last with Canadiens


“I just want to enjoy every shift with Brendan (Gallagher) and Phillip (Danault),” he says about longtime linemates.

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Tomas Tatar doesn’t want the relationship to end.

For the last three seasons, Tatar’s regular linemates with the Canadiens have been Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher. But when the Canadiens play the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series Saturday at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) it could be the last time they ever play together.

The Canadiens are facing elimination for the second straight game after winning Game 5 by a 4-3 score in overtime Thursday night in Toronto. Tatar and Danault can both become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season and it seems unlikely they would both return with the Canadiens already up tight against the NHL salary cap. It’s also possible both of them will be gone.

“Honestly, I just want to enjoy every shift with Brendan and Phillip,” Tatar said Friday. “You never know when it’s going to be our last one. Both of us contracts expiring. NHL is a business. You can’t keep everyone. You have to make some decisions that have to be made at the end of the season. I had one of the best three years of my career, for sure, playing with these two guys. We were so close on and off the ice. Honestly, I just want to play as long as possible with them. So hopefully we can give it all tomorrow and we can play another game in this series. I just want to enjoy it with them. They are my great friends and we have become pretty close friends. So to me that’s something very special that was built here in Montreal with this team and I will probably never forget it.

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“I didn’t really know Gally and Phil before I got here and once we were put together as a line we were talking, helping each other on and off the ice,” Tatar added. “It became a very big friendship. To come here every day and enjoy the presence of these two guys for me and that chemistry that we build on the ice and how successful we were over the course of the three years was very special, for sure. I personally just enjoyed it a lot and hope and I wish it will continue, for sure.”

While Tatar has had success in the past with Danault and Gallagher, they have yet to score a goal in the first five games of this series with Toronto. Tatar is the only one with a point, picking up an assist.

“I think we’re making a lot better plays through the neutral zone,” Tatar said. “We were getting to their O-zone a lot easier (in Game 5) than games before, which creates a lot of O-zone time and O-zone chances.

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“The same goes for our team and the same goes for our line,” Tatar added. “We raised the bar higher yesterday and we want to continue to grow. I’m sure we’ll feel a lot better if one of us puts the puck in the net. That gives the line an extra boost, but I don’t think we’re far away. We created chances in previous games, we were just not fortunate enough to put it in. Maybe now is going to be the best timing to do it, for sure.”

While Tatar’s line hasn’t had success on offence, it has been strong defensively while mostly matched up against Toronto’s No. 1 line of Auston Matthews between Zach Hyman and Mitch Marner. Matthews, who led the NHL with 41 goals in 52 games during the regular season, has only one goal in the first five games, along with three assists. Marner has no goals and four assists, while Hyman has one goal and no assists.

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Marner finished fourth in NHL scoring this season with 20-47-67 totals, while Matthews was fifth with 41-25-66.

“We did a pretty good job last night,” Tatar said after limiting Toronto’s No. 1 line to one goal by Hyman. “Most of the time our line is matched up against them, which is a big defensive responsibility. They’re great players … I think the stats talk for themselves, for sure. But yesterday I think we did great. We were put in a lot of defensive-zone faceoffs, which Phil was tremendous. I think me and Gally create a lot of battles for them, which makes it tougher. And we didn’t spend (a lot of) time in our zone. We were able to produce some scoring chances. So I think we’ll keep the same strategy tomorrow and make it as tough as possible for them.”

Tatar is hoping it won’t be his last game with his two friends and linemates.

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

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