It was a big night in Montreal on Saturday as Max Pacioretty made his first visit to the Bell Centre in an opposing sweater. Even though he seemed determine to score in his first game against the Canadiens since the September 10 trade that sent him to Vegas (he recorded a game-high nine shots on goal!), it was one of the players he was traded for that ended up stealing the night and scoring the big goal against his former team.
Tomas Tatar, whose 2018-19 redemption tour continues following a disappointing run with the Golden Knights a year ago, scored his seventh goal of the season mid-way through the third period to help lift the Canadiens to a come-from-behind 5-4 win.
It was a fortunate bounce as he was actually trying to make a pass across the ice to a teammate, but that still had to feel good for Tatar. Really good.
Vegas paid a huge price for him at the trade deadline a year ago (sending three draft picks, including a first-rounder to the Detroit Red Wings) and it never really seemed to work out for him or the team. In 20 regular season games after the trade he recorded just four goals and two assists, and then saw his role greatly reduced in the playoffs to the point where he was at times a healthy scratch.
Not what anybody expected in early March.
After all of that, Vegas included him in the trade package with Montreal in exchange for Pacioretty, which seemed to be a pretty strong deal for the Golden Knights.
All Tatar has done over the first month of the season with Montreal is score seven goals to go with eight assists in his first 17 games with the team.
Pacioretty, for what it’s worth, is off to a tough start in Vegas and has just two goals (and no assists) in his first 13 games with the team. He signed a long-term contract extension with Vegas just after the trade.
Look, it is still very early in the season. At some point Pacioretty is going to start scoring goals again and he could still go on to be a huge part of the Golden Knights over the next few seasons (at least, he better be given the price Vegas paid for him and the contract they gave him).
Tatar will also probably cool off at some point from this current pace.
But what has gotten lost in all of this, from the initial trade to Vegas, to his struggles with the team, to his inclusion in the Pacioretty trade, is that Tatar is a really good hockey player.
He has been a really good hockey player throughout his entire career and has been a lock for at least 20 goals every year he has been a full-time player in the league. That is no small accomplishment. Vegas took too much heat for what it gave up for him at the deadline, he took too much heat for hitting a cold spell after the trade at the wrong time of year, and so far Montreal looks to have done very well for itself in a tough trade it ended up having to make.
It all really worked out in Montreal’s favor on Saturday.