Against the wall
OTTAWA – What makes the Habs think they can come back from a 3-1 series deficit? They’ve done it before. Twice.
After losing 3-2 in overtime in the nation’s capital, the Canadiens are returning to Montreal trailing the Senators 3-1 in their opening round series. While it’s not a position the Habs would have liked to have been in, there’s perhaps no team better equipped to rally back from that deficit than the group that’s already been through it before.
With eight players remaining from the 2010 Habs team that shocked the President’s Trophy-winning Washington Capitals by erasing a 3-1 hole to move on to Round 2 and three players in the room who were there when the team did the same to the Bruins in 2004, the Habs are heading into Game 5 ready to fight for their playoff lives.
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“We’re facing elimination now and none of us want to go home; none of us are done playing,” underlined Josh Gorges, who was part of the 2010 team that made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals after trailing 3-1 in the first round. “We’ve got a lot of pride in this room and now it’s do or die. You have to have the mentality of, ‘Let’s throw everything we’ve got.’ There’s no tomorrow for us anymore. We have to play that way.”
Despite carrying a 2-0 lead into the third period and dominating the play for the majority of the game, the Canadiens weren’t able to leave Ottawa with the series tied at two. While the team could blame any number of calls, non-calls, bad bounces or miscues on the eventual outcome, they’re sticking with the “No Excuses” mantra they’ve sworn by all season long.
“Are we going to sit here and say we got a game stolen from us? That doesn’t do us any good,” stressed Gorges when asked about the Senators’ opening goal that appeared to have been kicked in by Mika Zibanejad. “That’s not why we lost. They make their calls; we live by it. That’s part of hockey. We ended up on the wrong side of it so it’s hard to say [we were the better team]. This game is measured on wins and losses alone. Nothing else matters.”
Looking to become the 24th team in NHL history to erase a 3-1 deficit in a postseason series, Michel Therrien won’t be making many tweaks to his game plan heading into Games 5, 6 and 7.
“I’ll say one thing: I’m really proud of these guys. They worked hard tonight and they came to play,” confirmed the Canadiens’ coach. “This was an important game. We had to come in focused. We had to come in and play good hockey and that’s what we did. We deserved a better fate. We have to do what we always do: regroup. We’ve played three good games out of four; we’ve played some solid hockey in this series.”
With three must-win games on tap and the season on the line in each of them, Gorges knows exactly what the Habs need to do to on Thursday to make sure they’re still in the running when they wake up on Friday morning.
“We did some good things. We battled hard, we got pucks out when we needed to and guys were blocking shots. All those sorts of things,” mentioned Gorges, whose team dished out 46 hits in Game 4. “It’s just unfortunate that we allowed them to come into the zone too easily and then it was a scramble play [to tie it up].
“But we’re down 3-1 no matter which way we want to explain it,” he concluded. “It doesn’t matter. Our backs are now up against the wall and we don’t have a choice but to come out swinging.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
Game Highlights: Canadiens-Senators