MONTREAL - Coming to terms with an early playoff exit is never easy, and to a man the Canadiens are no exception to that rule.
In the aftermath of their season-ending 6-1 defeat to the Senators on Thursday night at the Bell Centre, however, the Habs were quick to give Ottawa their due, praising their opposition’s play after dropping their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series in five games.
“Despite the fact that we were missing many players, we started the game off on the right foot. We had an excellent first period. We played well in the second. We were missing some important players in our lineup, but I liked the way we started out,” affirmed head coach Michel Therrien, whose club trailed 3-1 through 40 minutes of play in Game 5 before allowing three power play goals in the final frame.
“We had the right attitude, but you have to give credit to the Ottawa Senators and Craig Anderson, who was, in our eyes, the best player in the series,” added the veteran bench boss. “It’s hard for a team when you go up against a talented goaltender like that who’s in complete control, and constantly gives his team the chance to stay in games and keep momentum on their side. We had to capitalize on our opportunities.”
As was the case throughout the series, Anderson made capitalizing on those scoring chances rather difficult for the Canadiens. In turning aside 33 of 34 shots against on Thursday night, Anderson completed the series having conceded just nine goals on 180 total shots for a 1.80 goals-against average. P.K. Subban was the lone Hab who managed to beat the 31-year-old netminder in the Canadiens’ final outing of the 2012-13 postseason campaign.
Like his coach, defenseman Francis Bouillon pointed out that the Ottawa starter's consistent efforts played an important part in determining the outcome of the best-of-seven series.
“Anderson was one of their best players, and he hurt us all series long,” explained Bouillon. “Once again tonight, he didn’t allow us to get our rhythm going by making big saves. It was like that during the entire series.”
While the Habs played the majority of the series short-handed up front, Therrien and his troops were adamant that the injury bug was not what dictated how their playoff tilts against Ottawa played out on the ice.
“The last two weeks, we had a lot of bad luck. But, for us, and my approach with the team, and our approach since day one was that was not an excuse,” noted Therrien, whose squad contested Game 5 minus starting goaltender Carey Price and forwards Lars Eller, Brian Gionta, Ryan White and Brandon Prust. “I don’t think the players with their attitude use that as an excuse because every game, the way that they prepared themselves, the way they started the game [on Thursday night], I could tell that it was not an excuse.”
Bouillon shared a similar opinion shortly after the final buzzer.
“It’s never easy to play when you’re missing so many impact players, but there are no excuses, ” said Bouillon. “The way we played today, we would have really liked to end on a good note and play a solid game. It was a hard series for us, but we stuck together. We deserved better than this."
The Bell Centre faithful certainly agreed with the veteran rearguard, showering the Habs with applause after a season in which the team took an emphatic step forward and showed signs of great things to come.
“We’ve got the best fans in the world, and as hard as it is for us, as hard as it is for them, they stayed right until the end. That’s not easy to do, especially with the way tonight’s game was,” said defenseman Josh Gorges. “I give them a lot of credit for standing behind us. It’s tough for us to stand out there at the end of the game and to know that we’re done for the season, but we thank them a lot, that’s for sure.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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