In the Habs Room: Hammond shines in first start in nearly 4 years

The 34-year-old goaltender showed no signs of rust as he led Montreal to a 3-2 shootout win over the Islanders

Author of the article:

Pat Hickey  •  Montreal Gazette

Publishing date:

Feb 20, 2022  •  February 20, 2022  •  3 minute read  •  7 Comments

Canadiens goaltender Andrew Hammond stops a scoring chance from Anders Lee of the New York Islanders at UBS Arena on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022 in Elmont, N.Y.
Canadiens goaltender Andrew Hammond stops a scoring chance from Anders Lee of the New York Islanders at UBS Arena on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022 in Elmont, N.Y. Photo by Jim McIsaac /AP

Andrew Hammond says there’s something to the adage that good things come to those who wait.

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Hammond waited nearly four years between starts in the NHL, but there were no signs of rust as the 34-year-old goaltender led the Canadiens to a 3-2 shootout win over the New York Islanders on Sunday at UBS Arena. He made 28 saves and stopped two of the three shooters in the shootout to give Montreal two consecutive wins for the first time this season.

“I’m very happy and I’d wait four more years to do it again,” said Hammond, whose last regular-season game was on March 28, 2018, when he was in goal for the Colorado Avalanche in a 2-1 loss to Philadelphia. You have to go back to April 9, 2016, when the Ottawa Senators beat Boston 6-1, for his last win.

“I’d be lying if I said it was just another game, but it was close to it,” Hammond said. “I felt comfortable from the start. Being here for a week, I had a couple of good practices and that gave myself confidence. I felt I just had to go out there and perform up to my ability.”

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The Canadiens acquired Hammond from the Minnesota Wild last week when it was apparent Cayden Primeau isn’t ready for the NHL and Sam Montembeault needed someone to share the workload.

Hammond’s career went off the rails after a spectacular rookie season with Ottawa in 2014-15. He sparked a late-season run to the playoffs with a 20-1-2 record with a 1.79 goals-against average. He played only 31 NHL games over the next three seasons and last season he didn’t play games at any level as he spent the entire season on the Wild taxi squad.

Despite the setbacks, Hammond said he kept preparing for the opportunity he had Sunday.

“During the season, I just try to keep the focus,” Hammond said. “If it does happen or doesn’t happen as long as I was preparing for it to happen. Things happen so quickly. It was eight days ago I got traded, so if I wouldn’t have been preparing for this moment for four years and I got it, I’d be living with a lot of regret.”

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Hammond said he has made a quick adjustment to his new team.

“I take a lot of pride in being a good teammate and I know some  guys — (Rem) Pitlick, (Mike) Hoffman and (Chris) Wideman — from previous stops, and I don’t know if it’s them talking, but it’s great to have support,” Hammond said. “It seems like it’s a pretty close group. They’re supporting me and I’m grateful for that.”

The post-game interviews featured the liberal use of the F-word: fun.

“Victory is the result of the process,” said coach Martin St. Louis. “It’s fun to be rewarded when you work hard, and their reward is winning. Me, so far, I find that we are improving every day. And it’s fun that guys are rewarded with wins.”

A number of players seemed to be energized by St. Louis’s arrival.

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Cole Caufield picked up an assist Sunday and scored in the shootout. He has four goals and an assist in five games.

Jeff Petry, who may or may not be on the trading block, scored a goal, and has two goals and two assists in the past three games.

Pitlick justified his selection for the shootout by scoring the winning goal.

“Pitlick has had success in every league he has played in,” St. Louis said. “He did well in the college ranks, in the USHL. He’s a guy who has always collected points, who is very creative. It’s fun to see this guy play hockey.”

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