MONTREAL – Despite losing Game 1, the Canadiens won’t be making major adjustments for Game 2 on Friday.
The Habs had a game plan heading into the series-opening tilt against the Senators and, for the majority of the game, they stuck to it to the letter. Carrying the play for the first two periods, the Canadiens peppered Craig Anderson with 41 shots in the first 40 minutes of the game alone, but it wasn’t enough to send them into Game 2 riding a 1-0 series lead.
“We played a good game and we deserved a better fate. We had 50 shots on net – it doesn’t happen often that you get 50 shots on net in the playoffs and end up losing the game,” stressed Michel Therrien following the 4-2 loss. “Anderson was the story of the game. He played really well, but I’m very happy with the way we played tonight.
“We started the game with intensity, we completely dominated the second period and the only reason we didn’t win was their goaltender,” continued the Habs bench boss. “You need breaks to win games and the only thing we can control is our effort. I thought our effort tonight was good. We have to keep playing the same way.”
After seeing his team score just twice after setting a new franchise record for shots in regulation time in a playoff game, the only tweak Therrien is planning to make is finding a way to slide a few more of those pucks past Anderson on Friday night.
“Tomorrow if he stops 50 shots again, what are we going to do? I’m not going to ask them to get 100 shots – that doesn’t happen,” underlined Therrien. “We know we’re facing a good goalie and we have to get traffic. And we had traffic; he was just good. Those things happen in the playoffs, where you’re facing a goalie who makes the difference. He made the difference.”
Leading the way in the Canadiens’ shooting gallery was rookie Brendan Gallagher, who had a game-high eight shots on net in his NHL postseason debut. One of those shots even made its way past Anderson to give the 20-year-old his first career playoff goal in the second period.
“It was a very intense hockey game. Both sides are competitive teams and they play the right way. It was a good first game and hopefully we can continue to build on that,” offered Gallagher, who drove the net to bury a Tomas Plekanec feed for a power play goal. “It’s nice that we can get back at it the next day and put this one behind us. When you go into the third period with a lead, you expect to win the game.”
Part of the shift in momentum heading into the third might have come from the roller coaster of emotions experienced by the Canadiens in the second period. Less than 30 seconds after Rene Bourque had tied the game at one off a perfect backhander, Lars Eller took a nasty check to the head from Eric Gryba, resulting in Eller being taken off the ice on a stretcher. Suffering a concussion, loss of consciousness, facial fractures and dental fractures stemming from the hit, Eller will spend Thursday night at the hospital pending further observation.
“[Michel] told us things like this are going to happen and when we face adversity, we have to stick together,” shared Bourque of his coach’s comments to the team while doctors were tending to Eller on the ice. “You want to play for your teammate and win the game for him. That was the first thing on our mind. We got a power play goal pretty quick there and got a lead then we threw it away in the third.
“We had a lot of shots where we were just throwing pucks at his feet and that’s what we wanted to do but we need to get more second and third opportunities in front of him,” added the 31-year-old winger, who scored his second career playoff goal in Game 1. “We need guys driving [Anderson]. We had trouble in the third period getting pucks deep and getting quality chances. We have to be hungrier around the net. That’s the biggest thing we need to do tomorrow.”
With less than 24 hours between the closing buzzer and the opening puck drop, the Habs won’t have to wait long to put their revised plan into action.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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