NEW YORK – The Canadiens have rallied back from 3-1 series deficits twice in the last 10 years. They’ll be looking to add a third to that list in 2014.
Having watched the Kings dig themselves out of a 3-0 hole and the Rangers overcome a 3-1 series deficit already this spring, the Habs will have no shortage of inspiration to draw on while planning their Eastern Conference comeback. Everyone outside the Canadiens’ dressing room may already be penciling the Rangers into a berth in the Cup Finals after Sunday’s win, but the Habs know they don’t hand out the Prince of Wales Trophy after just three wins.
“By no means are we counting ourselves out,” stressed Brian Gionta, whose team most recently came back from a 3-2 series deficit against Boston to win the second round in Game 7. “It’s a tough loss, it’s a bitter loss, but at the end of the day we’re still in this series.”
One of seven players left from the 2010 edition of the Habs that fell behind 3-1 to Washington before mounting a Cinderella-style comeback in the opening round as the eighth-seed underdogs, Gionta has seen the comeback script play out in real life before.
“It’s something you’ve dealt with before in your career and there’s a reason you have to win four games to win a series,” he said. “LA did it, these guys did it earlier on and we need to believe in ourselves. We’ll regroup and come back in Game 5. Our backs are against the wall, but we’re not out of the series yet.
It will be a pressure-filled game and guys will be excited.”
While he wasn’t part of that 2010 team, Francis Bouillon also has experience with battling back when everyone else has counted him out. Part of the 2004 Habs that turned the tables on the Bruins after going down 3-1, the veteran blue-liner is also well-versed in the art of the comeback, and with two of the next three games set to take place on Montreal soil, he knows how important it will be for the Habs to really use home ice to their advantage.
“Everyone is disappointed, but we have to turn the page,” prescribed Bouillon, who marked his return to action after missing the last eight games as a healthy scratch by scoring the opening goal for the Canadiens in the second period. “We can’t dwell on this game because we have another big one coming up in two days. There’s a lot of character in this room and no one is giving up.
“We have the best fans in Montreal,” he added. “You can feel the atmosphere when you play at the Bell Centre. It will be important to be ready. It won’t be easy, though. We’re going to have to fight for it.”
Finally seeing their power play click after nine opportunities in the Conference finals off a P.K. Subban rocket from the point, the Canadiens broke the goose egg, but still went 1-for-8 in Game 4 and allowed a shorthanded goal against. Special teams have been the story of the series so far, and it’s no secret they’ll need to find a way to up their efficiency with the man advantage to pull off a second 3-1 series comeback in a four-year span.
Needing overtime to decide a winner for the second-straight game, the Habs also had their share of opportunities in the extra frame, none better than an Alex Galchenyuk wrister that ricocheted off the crossbar and danced along the goal line behind Henrik Lundqvist. One shot away from leaving New York tied 2-2 instead of heading home with a 3-1 series to battle back from, the Canadiens know there’s no time to focus on what could have been in Game 4.
“That’s playoff hockey. It’s one bounce. It’s one inch,” explained P.K. Subban, who is tied for the league lead with four power play goals this spring and was also a member of the 2010 comeback squad. “I’ve been down 3-1 in a series before and the tide can turn real quick. We’ll be ready to go.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
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