It’s an even bigger boost when you’re the Montreal Canadiens, and you’re playing a second-round playoff series against your most storied rival.
Needless to say, the Habs will be looking to get a lift from the home crowd as this series, currently knotted at 1-1, shifts to the Bell Centre for Games 3 and 4.
“We always ask our team to make sure they’re ready to play,” said Canadiens Head Coach Michel Therrien following the team’s optional practice at the Bell Sports Complex on Tuesday. “Whenever we’re on the road, and especially at home, with the atmosphere that we’ve got at the Bell Centre — we [have gotten out to] great starts and guys are ready to play. And we were ready to play on the road, too, but when we’re in front of our fans, definitely it’s a big plus, I believe, so I think our players feed from the excitement from our fans.”
The Canadiens could use a boost after allowing four unanswered goals in the third period of Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Boston in Game 2 at TD Garden. They played a solid 50 minutes of hockey but seemed to come undone for the final 10 minutes of regulation.
Despite the fact that the Canadiens have allowed the Bruins to tie each of the first two games of this series in the third period, forward Brendan Gallagher insists his team is confident in its ability to close out games.
“I don’t think they’ve affected our confidence at all,” Gallagher said. “I think we’ve been a very good third period team all year, and I don’t know exactly what our record was when leading after two periods, but I think it was good this year. We have confidence playing with the lead. We’re a group that can settle in and get up early, and it helps our game. So we certainly haven’t lost confidence at all.”
The slate has been cleared for Game 3. Memories of Game 2 and the way it ended have been discarded, and the Habs are solely focused on getting off to a strong start on Tuesday night and — as both teams have said countless times — playing their game.
“I don’t think momentum really carries over from game to game, at this stage,” Gallagher said. “It can simply change by way of the opening faceoff. We’re at home, we’re playing in front of our crowd, we’re going to engage them as much as we can. But that said, I don’t think momentum carries over.”
If that is true, it would serve the Canadiens well. The last thing they want is for the Bruins to ride their spectacular third period in Game 2 to a hot start in Game 3.
After a disciplined Game 1, both teams let the emotions get away from them to some degree in Game 2. While the Canadiens drew nine penalties, they also were whistled for six, and at this time of year, staying out of the box is imperative.
“You don’t want to hurt your team,” said center Ryan White. “You don’t want to put them down, especially this late in the season. You usually have some of the best power plays left, and you don’t want to give them any extra chances.”
In Game 3, Montreal will be looking to play between the whistles, keep the emotions in check and thrive off the home crowd. If they manage to draw a few penalties of their own, though, that bodes well: The Habs have cashed in for four power-play goals through the first two games of this series.
Clearly, there is a balance that must be achieved, and while both teams are still searching for it, the Canadiens are determined to find it on Tuesday night.
“I think we’re going to have lots of emotion, lots of energy to play with,” White said. “So for me, just finding that fine line — not going too far, and I think trying to play in check and play whistle to whistle and not let that get the best of you.”
When the Canadiens hit the ice for Monday’s practice, the lines looked significantly different than they did for the first two games of their series versus Boston.
Forward Rene Bourque was out with the flu, so White skated on the fourth line with Travis Moen and Dale Wiese.
Therrien declined to comment on his lineup for Game 3 and would not confirm whether or not Moen will play. Moen has been out since suffering a concussion in a game against the Bruins in March.
While Moen admitted that getting back into game shape has been a challenge, he feels he is ready to go.
“Every game is so much more important than in the regular season, so it’s a little tougher coming back, trying to get into that game shape and stuff,” he said on Tuesday. “So hopefully I can go and have a good game if I’m in tonight.”
Therrien did confirm after Tuesday’s skate that Bourque will play in Game 3.
Additionally, there was some shuffling on the back end for Monday’s practice lineup. Douglas Murray slotted into the top six defensemen, pairing up with Mike Weaver, who had a goal in Game 2. If Murray were to play in Game 3, it would likely mean that Francis Bouillon — who scored in Game 1 — would be out.
While most of the Canadiens took the option on Tuesday and refrained from hitting the ice, they feel confident in their preparation for a critical Game 3.
“We put in a good day of practice [on Monday],” Gallagher said. “We practiced with a purpose, and that purpose was for what we think we're going to see from the Boston Bruins tonight, and what we need to do counteract that. So we feel confident in the work we put in, and now it’s about executing that game plan tonight.”
And though the Canadiens have gotten off to decent starts in each of the first two games of this series, they are looking to turn it up a notch on Tuesday.
“The most important thing is, try to get momentum into the game,” Therrien said. “We can’t just watch what they’re going to do and try to adjust. We have to be the team that’s going to put the pressure on. We’re going to try to make sure they adjust to us tonight.”