Solving the second period puzzle
The Canadiens have been a far different team in the second period this season.
MONTREAL - Unable to weave the same third period magic that has served them so well this year, including only 24 hours earlier in Buffalo, the Canadiens were stung by their only true nemesis of the 2006-07 season-the second period.
On a night that saw his team sandwich a dominant first period and a hard-fought final frame around yet another disappointing second period, head coach Guy Carbonneau was still scratching his head after dropping a 4-2 decision to the Flyers.
"We should've put them away in the first period," said Carbonneau. "I haven't seen the exact numbers yet, but we had at least 10 scoring chances in that period, but we only managed to put one in. We could have easily been up 4-0 or 5-0.
"We came on strong in the third and almost made it all the way back to tie the game," added Carbonneau. "But we can't expect to come-from-behind every night."
One of the authors of Montreal's emotional comeback win in Buffalo on Friday night, Saku Koivu would like nothing more than to find an antidote for the Canadiens second period letdowns.
"It's happening way too often," admitted Koivu, whose third period goal cut the Flyers' lead to 3-2. "We keep having strong first periods and then it's like we get away from our game plan and get too fancy in the second period. We need to be more consistent."
While the Canadiens have only been outscored by a four-goal margin in the second period this season (23-19), the Habs have rarely had the upper hand in the shot department in the middle frame. Trailing 256-207 so far this season, Montreal also gave up 15 of the Flyers' 26 shots in the second period alone on Saturday night.
It's a far different story in the third period with the Canadiens having outgunned the opposition by a landslide 29-16 margin. Montreal has ridden the wave of their final period magic to one of the league's best records when trailing after 40 minutes with a 3-5-2 mark, including Friday's win over the top-ranked Sabres.
Like his captain, Carbonneau can't wait to see his squad come out for the second period as fired up as they do the third.
"We have to find a second period solution," said Carbonneau. "We let up again here tonight against the Flyers and that can't keep happening. If anyone has any suggestions feel free to mail them to me."
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com