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Habs' play in danger zone puts them on the brink

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

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Habs' play in danger zone puts them on the brink
The Canadiens once again face playoff elimination, and the major concern heading into Game 5 against the Flyers will be their lackluster efforts in the neutral zone on Saturday, particularly in getting outshot 13-1 and outscored 2-0 in the second period.
MONTREAL -- Too much time spent in the danger zone in Sunday's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals has put Montreal in danger of seeing its season end just one stop short of the Stanley Cup Final.

A number of turnovers in the neutral zone and an inability to get the puck in deep throughout the second period turned the tide of what had been an even game. Philadelphia scored the first two goals and went on to a 3-0 victory, giving the Flyers a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series and putting the Canadiens on the brink of elimination once again.

"We played in what you call a danger zone, if you ask me," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "(Between) the blue lines is usually the dangerous zone. Your own blue line, you have to get the pucks out. The offensive blue line, you have to get the pucks deep."

Montreal did neither in Saturday's game, but the Canadiens were egregiously lackluster in the danger zone in the second period. The result was goals by Claude Giroux and Ville Leino -- both on breakaways -- and just one shot on goal for Montreal in what easily was its worst period of the postseason.

The miniscule shot output, in fact, tied a franchise mark for playoff futility. Both the 1983 and 1984 editions of the Canadiens were held to one shot in a playoff period.

"I think (the Flyers) just played a good disciplined game tonight," forward Michael Cammalleri, who was held to just one shot, told NHL.com. "I don't think they wavered much from a good game plan and we weren't as sharp in the execution of ours; so that is kind of conducive to their success. When we are not sharp on our execution and they are staying with that discipline, (this) is the result you get.

"The second period of that was the evidence for sure."

In that second period, Montreal did not get its first shot until the 13:34 mark when Maxim Lapierre finally wriggled free for a shot.

By that time, Philadelphia already had nine shots and Giroux had scored by taking a sweet pass from defenseman Kimmo Timonen and using his speed to beat defenseman Josh Gorges to the outside before using a nifty inside-out move to beat Jaroslav Halak over the short-side shoulder.

Just 79 seconds after Lapierre's shot, Philadelphia had a 2-0 lead when PK Subban could not get a puck deep enough and Philadelphia defenseman Chris Pronger sent Leino, filling the space Subban had vacated in his push up the ice, on a breakaway that ended with Leino pushing the puck just inside the short-side post.

"I didn't get it deep," Subban said, adding he was too eager at that moment to try to snap his team out of its offensive funk. "You can't turn the puck over there. Pronger took and pulled it back and their forward sprung out knowing I was up the ice and he ended up going in on a breakaway. You learn, maybe next time get the puck in deeper."

Learned lessons were not exactly Montreal's strong suit on Saturday.

Friday night, Montreal forced the Philadelphia defensemen to turn and chase pucks. The result was an effective and punishing forecheck that caused a number of turnovers and led directly to Montreal's first two goals in what would become a 5-1 victory.

Saturday, in the game that could have evened this series at two apiece heading back to Philadelphia, the Canadiens never really put the Flyers' defense under much duress after the opening 10 minutes of the game. 

"Sometimes, when you don't get a goal, you start pressing or you change things up," Montreal forward Brian Gionta said. "It seemed like that is what happened. We just changed our game plan and got away from what was working and tried to make something happen. When that happens, it doesn't work out for you."

Now, the Canadiens must figure out a way to find some offense to save their season yet again. They have pulled off a high-wire escape job five times already this postseason when facing an elimination game. But the comebacks in the first two series did not come after Montreal had been shut out three times in the series, which has happened here.

In fact, no team in the long and mostly glorious postseason history of these Canadiens has ever been shut out three times in a series.

Yet, the Canadiens remain defiant in the face of the odds stacked against them.

"It was a hell of an opportunity," Subban said of Game 4. "They are up 2-1 and we are at home and we have an opportunity to tie up the series and it didn't happen for us. We have another game, we're facing elimination and we have been in that situation before. We'll be ready for it.

"We know we can beat these guys. We're facing elimination and we have been there before, so we are going to do what we can to get ready."


Quote of the Day

They said, 'You're going to love the city. It's smaller than Philadelphia, but you're going to love it. You're going to love the fans. Just watching the playoffs last year, the fans seemed louder there than they did anywhere. I'm really excited about that.

— Forward Scott Hartnell on his upcoming season with the Columbus Blue Jackets