Pacioretty quietly establishing himself as a top-tier scorer

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The Ottawa Senators took a 3-0 lead against Montreal last night, but ended up getting blown away by the Canadiens. The reason for the dramatic reversal of fortunes was Max Pacioretty.

He had a five-point night, including a hat trick, to lead Montreal to a 7-4 victory.

“He’s an animal,” teammate David Desharnais declared to TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie.

Friday was the most productive night of Pacioretty’s career from a points perspective, but he’s been the difference for Montreal many times over the last three seasons.

The 25-year-old might not be a household name, but he is nevertheless one of the best snipers in the league today. Since the start of the 2011-12 campaign, Pacioretty ranks fifth in the NHL with 86 goals in 192 games, behind just Corey Perry, Phil Kessel, Steven Stamkos, and Alex Ovechkin.

Not bad for a guy that comes with a $4.5 million cap hit through the 2018-19 campaign.

What’s more, he’s only been getting better lately. He leads the league in goals since his previous hat trick on Nov. 19, according to RDS’ Francois Gagnon.

Overall he now ranks fourth with 38 goals and a league-leading 11 of them have been game winners. For all that success though, he has no points in four career postseason games. If he can carry this momentum into the 2014 playoffs, then it won’t be long before hockey fans outside of Montreal start holding him in much higher regard.