NEW YORK – The theme for the Canadiens’ final 12 periods of hockey this season is support.
It’s no secret how important special teams play is at the NHL level. Usually, the team that wins the special teams battle wins the game and that’s exactly what happened on Friday night. But while the NHL’s second-best penalty kill unit gave up two power play goals, Lars Eller knows the reason behind the 4-1 result is even simpler than that.
“Obviously there’s a difference between first and 15th. I think a lot of time the effort was there from us tonight but offensively we didn’t get to those dirty areas in front of Lundqvist and we made it way too easy,” admitted Eller, who led all forwards playing 3:20 shorthanded. “We didn’t make it hard on him and it was too easy for them to defend. That’s the short version.”
The Rangers outshot, outhit and outscored the Canadiens, who were limited to 20 shots or less for just the fifth time this season. The fact that the team they lost to is currently battling for the President’s Trophy with 107 points doesn’t make the outcome any easier to swallow.
“We all know what we’ve got to do but there are five guys on the other team trying to prevent us from doing those things and they do a good job of it,” offered Eller. “We just have to be better. There are a lot of things that need to be better.”
The Habs can take some solace in having spoiled Lundqvist’s bid for a ninth shutout this season, after Rene Bourque knocked a sizable monkey off his back by scoring his 18th goal of the year –and just his fifth since arriving in Montreal.
“It’s a little bit [of a relief],” admitted the 30-year-old winger who broke the goose egg with less than three minutes remaining in regulation. “It’s not the right time in the game to get it but obviously it hasn’t been the greatest since I got here. I’m getting chances, it’s just a matter of time.”
Despite having played just 34 games as a Hab since being traded by Calgary in January, Bourque has felt the disappointment of the current campaign as much as any of his new teammates. With just four games left to go, he’s looking to finish the season off on a high note.
“It’s tough but you’ve got to do it. There are 82 games in a season for a reason and you’ve got to play with pride and you’ve got to play for your teammates,” he shared. “Nothing’s ever easy when you’re out of [the playoffs] but we just have to stick together and hopefully get some wins here and play as a team.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.