It’s pretty clear that Tomas Plekanec is no longer playing “like a little girl.”

Two years ago, after a terrific regular season, Plekanec went into a funk during first-round playoff action against the Boston Bruins.  At the time, Plekanec said he was playing “like a little girl”, which was an insult to little girls everywhere.

He continued to perform at that level last season.

Not any more.  These days, he is playing like the sixth-leading point-getter in the National Hockey League.

Following last night’s three-assist performance in Montreal’s 5-1 win over the hapless Carolina Hurricanes, Plekanec finds himself with 43 points: which puts him in sixth place in the overall point-scoring race.  One point behind Alex Ovechkin.  Three points behind Sidney Crosby.  Six more points than Evgeni Malkin.

Plekanec is keeping some pretty impressive company at the top of the points parade, moving up several notches with his three-point effort. Andrei Markov redirected a perfect pass from Plek 29 seconds into this one to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead, on the rejuvenated power play.  Plek also helped set up a goal by Andrei Kostitsyn, his 11th of the season, 9th in his last 10 games, to make it 2-0 Montreal.  And Plek fed Sergei Kostitsyn with a perfect pass which allowed Sergei to tap the puck past a beleaguered Cam Ward to make it 3-1 Montreal before this one was even 10 minutes old.  The goal by Sergei was his first of the season since being recalled by the Canadiens: a long, lonely stretch of 16 games.

Exit Cam Ward.  Enter Manny Legace.

While the ‘Caines were busy playing musical goalies,  Jaroslav Halak was busy catching pucks in his teeth.  After facing 40 shots against the Islanders in game one of this current seven-game road trip, and 50 shots in game two against the Thrashers,  Halak faced 47 shots last night.  But because of his heroics, the Canadiens are 3-and-0 to start this road swing, which included a detour back to Montreal last night for two days of home cooking, before the Habs hit the road again bright and early Saturday morning, for a game against the Leafs that night.

Earlier in the season, the Canadiens’ goaltending situation featured Carey Price and Jaro Halak as 1A and 1B.  Then, for awhile there about a month ago, Price went on a bit of a run and the Canadiens looked to have found their number 1 goaltender.  That was before Price returned to his inconsistent ways, and Halak returned to his winning ways.  Now we’re back to 1A and 1 B, with Halak now 1A. 

Plekanec wasn’t the only three-assist player last night for the Canadiens.  Stop the presses, but Scott Gomez ALSO picked up three helpers, assisting on the two power play goals by Glen Metropolit (!) and the goal by Sergei Kostitsyn.  That’s not to say that Gomez played the perfect hockey game.  Far from it.  He was prone to blunders on the ice; took a bone-headed cross-checking penalty and an equally-boneheaded unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the same play, that cost the Habs a goal.  But he also helped set up three goals.  And when you’re paying a guy eight million dollars a season to set up goals, you want him to do just that. 

It’ll be nice to see Gomez reunited with Brian Gionta, who was sent home early after initially joining the Canadiens on this road trip.  Gionta had been skating with the Habs after going down with a broken bone in his foot some six weeks ago.  But his condition took a turn for the worse and was told to stay off skates for a few days.  We saw what the line of Gomez-Gionta-and-Cammalleri was capable of doing earlier this season, when the Canadiens were a one-line team, and Gionta was a big part of that success.

Come to think of it, the Canadiens are STILL a one-line team.  But that one line features the likes of Cammalleri, Andrei Kostitsyn and, yes, Tomas Plekanec.

The game also marked the debut of Benoit Pouliot in a Montreal uniform.  Pouliot, drafted one position ahead of Carey Price in 2005,  played 21 shifts covering 13:28 of ice time.  He delivered two shots on goal and one body check, and did not look out of place.  In fact, he looked dangerous out there, at times.  It’s clear this young man has the wheels and the talent to be a top-six NHLer.  It’s the desire that’s been lacking.

Only HE can provide that.

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