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Series deficits don't seem to faze Canadiens

Friday, 05.21.2010 / 9:53 AM / Inside the Numbers

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Series deficits don't seem to faze Canadiens
Montreal down in a series? No problem. The Canadiens have made overcoming long odds the norm.
The Montreal Canadiens have made a habit of playing from behind in this year's playoffs, overcoming a 3-1 series deficit to beat Washington and a 3-2 deficit to top Pittsburgh. If any team is going to make it three comebacks in a row, the Canadiens would be the one.

In NHL history, 41 teams have lost the first two games of a series and come back to win. The Canadiens have done it five times, tying them with Detroit and Pittsburgh for the most comebacks from a 2-0 deficit. The last time was in 2004, when they trailed Boston 2-0 (and later 3-1) and came back to win in seven games.

The Canadiens also overcame 2-0 deficits to win series in 1966, 1971, 1987 and 1993 -- they won the Stanley Cup in all of those years except 1987.

But overcoming the Flyers won't be easy. Philadelphia is 16-0 when winning the first two games of a series, even though they now are 9-8 in Game 3's after starting a series 2-0.

Slow starters -- If the Flyers are going to put up a better performance in Game 4, they would do well to get off to a better start. Montreal outshot Philadelphia 17-9 in the first period of Game 3, increasing its margin to 46-18 for the first period of the first three games. The Canadiens outshot Philadelphia 13-3 and 16-6 in the first period in the first two games, but goaltender Michael Leighton's flawless play let the Flyers escape with 1-0 leads after 20 minutes each time.

The Canadiens are a different team in this year's playoffs when they score first. Montreal is 8-2 when it opens the scoring, but just 1-6 when the other team scores first. Five of those first goals -- including the one Thursday night -- have been scored by Michael Cammalleri, who leads all playoff scorers with 13.

Cammalleri's goal 7:05 into Game 3 gave the Canadiens their first lead of the series. The goal ended Leighton's shutout streak at 172:55; he stopped 74 consecutive shots between goals allowed.

The five goals were the most he's allowed in a game since coming to Philadelphia on waivers early in the season, and the loss ended his bid to tie Pete Peeters as the only Flyer goaltenders to win their first five playoff starts with Philadelphia.

One to forget -- Thursday was the 700th playoff game in the history of the Canadiens (687 as a member of the National Hockey League), and it's safe to say they'll remember it much more pleasantly than Nos. 698 and 699 -- 6-0 and 3-0 shutout losses to Philadelphia to open the conference finals.

Game No. 698 was one they'd especially like to expunge from their memory banks. The 6-0 defeat was the worst playoff shutout loss in franchise history and matched the largest margin of defeat by the Canadiens in a postseason game -- they lost 7-1 to Detroit in Game 2 of the 1955 Stanley Cup Final and 8-2 to Carolina in Game 2 of the 2002 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

The back-to-back shutout losses were the fifth in Montreal history but the first against the Canadiens since they lost 1-0 and 3-0 to Buffalo in their first two games of the 1983 playoffs. They hadn't been blanked in back-to-back road games in 58 years -- since losing Games 3 and 4 to Detroit in 1952, when a pair of 3-0 defeats completed a sweep.

Thursday's victory was the 400th by the Canadiens in postseason play, by far the most of any NHL franchise.

Good omen -- By winning the first two games of the Western Conference Finals in San Jose, the Blackhawks did something they'd done only three times in their history -- go home with a 2-0 series lead. They also won the first two games on the road in the 1934 Stanley Cup Final against Detroit, against Minnesota in 1982 and Detroit 10 years later.

The best part for Chicago fans is that their team won all three of those series. In fact, the Hawks haven't lost a series in which they've led 2-0 since 1971, when they took the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final against Montreal at home but lost in seven games. San Jose has never won a series in which it lost the first two games.

The Hawks won despite being outshot in both games -- something that hasn't happened much this season. Chicago outshot its opponents 70 times in 82 regular-season games (going 44-19-7) and in nine of its 14 playoff games thus far (7-2).

The Sharks' 45 shots in Game 1 were the most against Chicago in any game this season, and the combined total of 85 shots (45-40) are the most in back-to-back non-overtime games during this year's playoffs.



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We're understanding what's bringing us success. We have a talented hockey club when everyone's committed to doing the right things and doing their job.

— Islanders captain John Tavares after a 4-1 win against the Penguins tied the teams atop the Metropolitan Division standings
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