MONTREAL – The ability to stare down adversity is the mark of any good team. The Canadiens are already exhibiting that quality early on in the 2013-14 campaign.
Playing their first game on Bell Centre ice since returning from a season-long road trip to Western Canada, Michel Therrien’s troops led a tenacious Blue Jackets contingent 3-0 before the midway point of the second period on Thursday night, only to see their advantage evaporate as Columbus stormed back with three unanswered goals of their own.
That didn't stop the Habs from turning the tables on Todd Richards' squad while the game was still up for grabs as Tomas Plekanec lifted the Canadiens to a 5-3 win by scoring the eventual game-winner with 1:07 remaining in regulation time.
Affording teams the chance to steal a valuable two points in their own building, however, isn’t something the Habs want to make a habit of going forward.
“After the first period, we came in the room and we said that we can’t take our foot off the gas. We did it in Winnipeg and got away with it. On Thursday night, it almost nipped us in the bud. We’ve got to play a full 60 minutes here,” affirmed defenseman P.K. Subban, who upped his point streak to six games with two assists in the Canadiens' fourth consecutive victory. “The good thing is that we’re finding ways to win. We can’t always rely on our goaltender to shut the door and on opportunistic goals there at the end of the game.
“I think when you [let a team back in a game], you give a team hope,” added the reigning Norris Trophy winner, whose club has now picked up 10 out of a possible 12 points in their last six games and currently sits third in the East. “It’s like a dog. When you have a dog down, you’ve got to finish it off or it’s going to bite you."
That’s something Carey Price made light of in the aftermath of the win that saw the Anahim Lake, BC native outduel Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky and turn aside 30 shots to up his record to 4-2-0 on the season in six starts.
“Whenever you get a team down like that, you know that they’re going to be motivated and working hard because they’re most likely getting chewed out by their coach. You’ve got to give them credit, they battled back. It really just came down to our effort,” noted the three-time NHL All-Star, who helped pace the Canadiens to their first win over the Blue Jackets in Montreal since Nov. 24, 2009. “We really just kind of gutted the [last few] wins out. There’s no real secret to that. I think most teams that win give their best every night, and if we don’t have our best performance, at least we’re going to give our best effort.”
There was no denying that the Habs came to play on Thursday night, avoiding the pitfalls that typically come with playing on home ice immediately following a lengthy road trip. The bleu-blanc-rouge dictated play at the outset of the game, got out to an early lead, capitalized on special teams opportunities and made the most of the momentum they’d established coming into the tilt after besting the Oilers, Canucks and Jets in enemy territory.
Despite the fact that his players squandered a notable lead, the Habs bench boss was quick to point out that his players delivered when the game was on the line.
“It was a game that was very exciting for the fans, but hard on coaches. Columbus is a team that skates really well and plays a style that’s similar to us. That isn’t easy to play against. When you look at the goals the Blue Jackets scored, it’s not about us sitting on our lead. We lost some battles in front of the net. Those are things that can happen,” noted Therrien. “We’ll have to pay attention to the things we did really well on the road. But, we reacted well on Thursday night and that’s good news for us.”
It wasn’t all good news for the Canadiens, however, as it was announced postgame that Max Pacioretty would be sidelined for the next three weeks with a left hamstring strain. In his absence, players like Michael Bournival will likely be called upon to fill the void on offense. Fortunately, the Shawinigan, QC native appears to be finding his scoring touch at just the right time, notching his first career NHL goal in the win over the Blue Jackets.
“It was an incredible feeling. I had goose bumps out there for a minute. I really appreciated the moment and I savoured it. When I heard the crowd after they announced my goal, it was a memorable moment that lasted a long time. I was really happy,” said Bournival, who amassed five shots on goal, two blocked shots and a plus-1 differential while playing in just his fourth NHL game.
“You definitely feel a boost of adrenaline when you score. It was a great play by [Andrei] Markov. It was a perfect pass. The puck was right on my stick,” added Bournival, who captained the Shawinigan Cataractes to a Memorial Cup win in 2012. “It was a perfect play.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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