OTTAWA – People already counting the team out after one tough loss clearly aren’t familiar with the 2012-13 Montreal Canadiens.
After seeing the Habs finish 15th in the Eastern Conference one year ago, most experts weren’t predicting big things for the team heading into the current campaign. Instead of clawing their way through a rebuild year, the Canadiens surprised the pundits and fast-tracked their development, rallying back from finishing third-last in the league to third-best in the NHL over the course of a single season.
During the regular season, the Habs allowed five or more goals 10 times. In the games that followed, the team responded by wining on seven occasions, replying with four or more goals in five of those bounce-back efforts. Rebounding from a single 6-1 loss to the Sens shouldn’t be an issue.
“We’ve shown a lot of character all season long coming back after a bad performance. Yesterday was a bad game for us. The Senators played a really good game and they deserved to win,” mentioned Michel Therrien. “What’s important for us is today’s preparation for tomorrow’s game. The focus is to make sure we play a good solid game like we did in the first two. We’ve proven in the past that we’re capable of bouncing back. We have to bounce back tomorrow.”
A huge element of the Canadiens’ Cinderella season has been the injection of character players into the lineup, including newly-nominated Calder Trophy candidate Brendan Gallagher. The scrappy sniper has shown no signs of rookie nerves in his NHL postseason debut, leading the league in shots with 17 and currently sitting tied for second in rookie scoring with two points in three playoff games.
“It’s pretty cool to get recognized with the great young players in the league, but I haven’t thought about it too much and I’m not going to start now,” stressed Gallagher, who became the first Habs player nominated for the award since Michael Ryder in 2003-04. “There’s too much at stake and my focus is on Game 4.”
Following a wild Game 3 that saw the Habs and Sens combine for 236 penalty minutes and 14 fighting majors – including Gallagher’s first NHL postseason tilt – the Habs will be looking to harness that emotion and parlay it into more goals than scraps on Tuesday night.
“Both teams are competing hard; both teams want to win,” explained Gallagher of the rivalry brewing between the Canadiens and Senators. “It’s competitive, it’s fun to play in and it’s fun to watch. It’s going to be important for us to play our game and not worry about little things that will happen that don’t have an effect on the outcome of the game. The best payback is getting the win.
“We knew it was going to be an emotional series,” added the rookie winger, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Monday. “From Game 1, it started that way and it’s going to continue every game. The team that manages their emotions the best is probably going to be the team that wins.”
Tempers boiling over to the tune of 53 penalties and a third-period line brawl isn’t something either team will likely be including in their game plans on Tuesday night, but P.K. Subban still saw some positives stemming from an emotional Game 3.
“I’m happy seeing our guys stand up for each other. A lot of people maybe don’t expect to see us fight or get involved in the game physically. But I think it’s a vote of character,” explained the 23-year-old blue-liner, who accounted for 25 of the Canadiens’ 129 penalty minutes on Sunday night. “For people that say there’s dissention in our room or there are ‘issues’ in our room, to see 22 guys like Brendan Gallagher go out and fight a guy and not even think twice about it says a lot about our team.
“A lot of those people are the same people that thought we wouldn’t make the playoffs and we ended up being second in our conference,” added Subban. “For our team right now, we’re a confident group and we’re going to be ready for tomorrow.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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