CHICAGO – The Canadiens won’t be leaving Chicago with two points, but they will be taking some positives with them to Dallas.
Coming into Friday’s game with a 1-3-1 record in their last five games, including a loss in Minnesota on Wednesday night, the Canadiens entered the United Center with something to prove. Facing a starting lineup rivaling that of an NHL All-Star Game, the Habs hit the ice against a dynamic Hawks team high on a four-game win streak and put together one of their grittiest efforts of the season.
While the result on Friday was the same as it was on Wednesday, the Habs are confident if they continue playing like they did in Chicago, the wins will start piling up again.
“I think that game shows how good we can be when we play the right way,” said Dale Weise, who played a season-high 17:39 against the Hawks. “When we play the way we did tonight, if we consistently play like that, I think we’re going to be happy with the results.”
Trading chances with one of the hottest teams in the NHL throughout the night, the Canadiens managed to solve the stingiest defensive squad in the league three times on Friday – the same number of goals given up by the Blackhawks to the Ducks, Kings and Blues combined in their last three games.
“You look at the way they play and the confidence they have and how they move the puck and how they’re on the same page,” described Tomas Plekanec, whose line was buzzing around the Hawks net all night and potted the Canadiens’ first two goals of the night. “That’s an unbelievable team over there and I thought we did a really good job tonight.”
Firing 14 shots in the opening period on Friday, the Canadiens headed to the first intermission with four more shots on goal than they had in the first 40 minutes combined against the Wild, finishing with more shots (41), hits (19) and blocked shots (20) than Chicago in the evening.
“If we’re going to play like that most of the nights, I don’t think we’ll have anything to worry about,” added Plekanec, who was third behind Manny Malhotra and Mike Weaver in shorthanded ice time, with 3:26. “We played a hell of a team game tonight. It was a tough way to lose, but if we keep going like that, we’ll be good.”
Making plenty of adjustments on Friday night after Wednesday’s disappointing loss, the Canadiens did a lot of little things right against Chicago. They haven’t been able to string together wins with the same ease they were earlier this year when they went 8-2-1 to start the season, and the secret ingredient the team is missing from that winning recipe might just be a little luck.
“I thought we played well and I thought we gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game. There were some unfortunate bounces that cost us. We probably want to stay out of the box more. You can’t give them as many opportunities on the power play,” admitted Subban, who was saddled with six penalty minutes in the game, including a tough hooking call that resulted in Jonathan Toews’ tying goal. “My penalty cost us a goal where we had the lead. Maybe if I don’t take that penalty, they don’t score and we have an opportunity to hold onto that lead.
“But I don’t know what more we could have done on that [winning] goal,” continued Subban of Brandon Saad’s winner with 27 seconds left in regulation. “It bounces one way and he takes a swipe at it and it goes in. But good teams get those types of bounces. We have to try to create some of those bounces for ourselves.”
Carrying a 4-5-1 record in their last 10 games with them into Dallas, the Canadiens will look to build on the positives and learn from the negatives to get back on track against the Stars.
“Obviously we haven’t lost confidence in this group. We know it will continue to be a process for us and we can take a lot of good things from this one, but at the same time we’re disappointed that we lost,” offered Brendan Gallagher, who scored his seventh goal of the season before chipping in with an assist against the Hawks. “We lost the game, so we need to find ways to improve. We have to just focus on playing our style of hockey that’s given us success in the past and we’ll continue to have success. It’s just a matter of sticking with it.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
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