MONTREAL – With rare consecutive losses in the books, the Habs look to their upcoming back-to-back games as a way to right the wrongs.
While the Canadiens would have loved Monday night’s game against the Flyers to be a bounce-back effort, they’ll have to settle for another learning experience as they continue to forge their way towards the NHL’s second season. After finishing last in the Eastern Conference in 2011-12, the Habs’ goal in their latest campaign was to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Following an entire 2012-13 campaign played with the pedal pressed firmly to the floor, the team will be looking to hit the gas hard once more down the stretch in hopes of heading into May on a high note.
“We might have had a little mental lapse the last couple of games. I still like the attitude we’re going into things with, but when we hit the ice we have to make sure we stay sharp and do all the things that got us here in the first place, and the past two games, we haven’t,” admitted veteran defenseman, Francis Bouillon, who logged 18:19 of ice time Monday night for the Habs.
“We’re not panicking, but we have to be able to learn from this,” he added. “It’s been easy to play against us lately and we want to be able to head into the playoffs with more wins under our belt. We have to focus on these next games that are coming up.”
While it may be only human nature to stop and take a breath after accomplishing a major goal, the Habs are acutely aware that they still need to keep their eyes fixed firmly on the prize if they hope to be able to keep moving forward.
“The night that we clinched the playoffs, that was the first thing we said to ourselves – that we can’t stop playing now, we can’t turn it off. We can’t just take it easy until the end of the regular season and then start playing well again in the playoffs. It doesn’t work that way,” underlined Tomas Plekanec, who finished the night with a plus-1 differential. “We have to go back to our game, start skating and start winning battles. For the biggest part of the season we were winning those battles, we were always first to the puck and always faster than the other teams.”
Despite seeing his starting goalie deal with his two toughest losses of the season after ranking among the league’s elite netminders in 2012-13, Tomas Plekanec – along with the rest of the Canadiens – wasn’t ready to put any of the blame on Carey Price Monday night.
“We let him down and that definitely shouldn’t happen. He’s our goalie and we should be working to help him out a lot more than we are,” continued the Czech center. “He made two huge stops in that opening period and it could have been way more than 2-1 after the first.”
Several stalls over in the Habs’ dressing room, the night’s third star, Brendan Gallagher, echoed his teammate’s sentiments.
“He made some big saves tonight and this definitely isn’t on Carey. As a group we’ve been giving up way too many chances and he still came up with some big saves in the first on a few breakaways. He gave us a chance to come back after the first period. It was only a 2-1 game because he was so good,” said the rookie, who scored the Canadiens’ second goal of the night to briefly tie the game at two.
“We haven’t lost faith in the group and we still believe in each other,” added Gallagher who scored his 13th of the season to tie Tomas Plekanec for the team lead in goals. “We know we haven’t lost it; it’s just about getting back to what we’ve done to be successful. When we do that I think we’re going to start getting results again right away.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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