-- The Montreal Canadiens
were a vision of calm one day prior to Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal-round series with the rival Boston Bruins
, a Zen-like state induced by an improbable 2-0 lead earned with two victories on the road where they allowed only one goal and never trailed in either game.
Canadiens coach Jacques Martin arrived for his press briefing Sunday looking very relaxed in a pair of jeans, uncharacteristically exchanging jokes with members of the media.
Earlier in the day starting goaltender Carey Price
, who wasn't scheduled to speak with the media, inadvertently opened the door to the Canadiens dressing room and saw the throng of reporters standing there. Looking like a deer caught in the headlights, Price quickly slammed the door shut.
Then, almost immediately afterward, he poked his head out the door once more with a sly grin, looked at all the reporters as if to tease them into thinking he'd come out for a chat, and slammed it shut again.
The mood, understandably, was loose at the time, and the members of the Canadiens who did speak to reporters that day emphasized the need for the team to understand just how important the third game would be, how an opportunity to go up 3-0 in a series does not come about that often and how it was an opportunity that would need to be seized.
Except that easygoing atmosphere crept its way into the morning skate on Monday, made its way into the start of Game 3, and it wasn't until the Canadiens were down 3-0 to a desperate Bruins team that they found a way to ratchet up the intensity once again.
By then, it was too late.
"They came out and played like a team that was down two games, and we played like a team that was up two games," Price said after Monday night's 4-2 loss cut the Canadiens' advantage in the series to 2-1. "I think it started in the morning, guys were horsing around in the pre-game skate and weren't ready to play. I thought we got what we deserved in the first period, but we came back in the second half of that game and played like a focused hockey team and played like we should."
The Canadiens got the day off Tuesday not only from practice, but from meetings, workouts and the media as well.
When they get back on the ice Wednesday morning to prepare for Thursday night's Game 4, the Canadiens will likely do so with an intensity that was unseen the day prior to Game 3.
That's what happens when an admitted lack of mental preparation leads to mistakes in the first 30 minutes of Monday's game that the Canadiens haven't made all series, and rarely made all season.
"We know from these three games what you have to do," Martin said. "It's execution. It's close, there's two teams out there battling. It's a dogfight."
Montreal was handed a golden opportunity when Zdeno Chara
stepped on the ice early for his first shift of Game 3 and the Bruins got caught for too many men on the ice at 1:08. But the lack of urgency Price was talking about was evident in that power play, as the Canadiens were not sharp at all and managed just one shot on goal.
Three seconds after that power play expired, David Krejci
scored to give Boston its first lead of the series.
Then the next two Bruins goals were actually examples of a lack of focus from Price himself, as Nathan Horton
banked one in off his back after he ventured too far out of his net on a shot that went wide, and Rich Peverley
converted a Price giveaway into an empty net to make it 3-0.
"I just think coming home we were a little too excited and a little anxious," defenseman James Wisniewski
said. "We were making some out-of-the-ordinary plays, pinching and giving up 2-on-1s and 3-on-1s and stuff like that. Once we calmed down and relaxed, we started playing a lot better."
Looking forward to Game 4, it is Wisniewski's last point the Canadiens will surely focus on. From the time of Peverley's second period goal onwards, the Canadiens outshot the Bruins 27-15 and outscored them 2-0, easily their most dominant offensive stretch of the series.
"We're definitely going to have to be better prepared for a strong start from them and we're going to have to be ready," Price said. "They're a good hockey club and they're back in a corner, so we're going to have to press harder.
"We have to take the momentum that we had for the whole second half of that hockey game and carry it into the next one."
However, the Canadiens will also have to guard against the same lack of desperation they showed Monday night, because even though they are coming of a loss it is still the Bruins that absolutely must win Game 4 to give themselves a fighting chance in the series.
The Canadiens still have a margin for error, because prior to the start of the series if anyone would have told them they would be tied 2-2 after four games, they likely would have taken it.
And for all the talk of playing like a team that was too comfortable with its position in Game 3, that comfort level hasn't changed all that much going into Game 4.
"We weren't expecting to sweep Boston at all," Price said. "We're still happy with where we're at."