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And now for the next act

After near-perfect Game 3, Habs eyeing encore performance in Game 4

by Steven Nechay @CanadiensMTL /

NEW YORK -- Only five players hit the ice at Madison Square Garden on Monday, but preparations for Game 4 are already underway backstage.

Michael McCarron, Brian Flynn, Andreas Martinsen, Nikita Nesterov and Al Montoya were the handful of Habs who skated at MSG in the afternoon, following a morning spent in the meeting room drawing up the game plan for Tuesday.

As for the rest of the team, head coach Claude Julien stressed that there's a big difference between a day off and a day away from the ice, and Monday's hours spent in the meeting room will be key to putting forth a follow-up effort to Sunday's dominant 3-1 win on road ice.

Video: Julien's Monday media op

"We did some video work, and some things to prepare for tomorrow. Our job is to continue looking at the games, and to make the necessary corrections. We want to show the players things that they're doing, and bring awareness to that. We're pushing our team to play our style of game, and show them that if we do the right things, good things will happen," explained the Habs bench boss. "We look at lots of different areas, then package all the information so that the players aren't overloaded. That's what we do, and that's the fun part of the playoffs -- the excitement to do the right things to help your team succeed."

Indeed, the Habs have been successful thus far in New York, but coming off an impressive Game 3, the team now has a tough act to follow.

"We have to remember that it was only one game," continued Julien, who saw his club limit the Rangers to just 12 shots on goal through more than 40 minutes of play on Sunday, while forcing over 20 turnovers. "Tomorrow we hit the reset button. It's true that a game like that gives us confidence, but confidence doesn't come with any guarantees. The most important thing we can do today is put Game 3 behind us, and start focusing on Game 4."

The Habs have done well to steadily improve each night so far since the start of the series, following up on Game 1's 2-0 loss at home with a 4-3 OT decision in Game 2, and a regulation win on Sunday.

Call it the nature of the postseason, but also be wary that it can work both ways.

"I'm expecting an even tougher Rangers team on Tuesday," added the 56-year-old. "That's what happens in the playoffs -- the more you face each other, the more you learn about your opponent. Teams adjust. We can't think that all we have to do tomorrow is lace up our skates and show up to get a similar result. We have to realize that we have a difficult test coming up. That's the best way to get ready for tomorrow."

It is a seven game series, after all, and in that sense, perhaps Phillip Danault put it best.

"It was important to have a big game here in Game 3. They had a big one against us in our first one at home, so yesterday was payback," concluded the Habs forward. "We're happy, but we're not satisfied yet. We want to keep repeating our performance from last night until this series is over."

Video: Danault on what to expect from the Rangers in Game 4

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