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Challenge accepted

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – While the Canadiens find themselves in a tough spot heading into Game 6 against the Bruins, Michel Therrien’s troops are ready to tackle the challenge in front of them head on.

Trailing their opponents in a playoff series for the first time this postseason after dropping a 4-2 decision in Boston on Saturday night, the Habs held an optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex on Sunday afternoon. Thirteen players hit the ice, while others concentrated their efforts on finding ways to turn the tables on a Bruins squad that has stifled their offensive capabilities for the better part of the last two games.

RAW: Michel Therrien

Having watched his players respond successfully to various forms of hardship all season long, Therrien believes this group will find a way to achieve the best possible outcome when the series resumes on Monday night in Montreal, forcing the Bruins to match their intensity level instead of the other way around.

“This is a team that has battled a lot of adversity over the course of the season. They’ve always responded with a good attitude. That’s what I like about the group we have. Right now, we’re facing adversity again. The way we’ve conducted ourselves under similar circumstances all season long is encouraging,” offered Therrien, stressing the fact that the Canadiens remain upbeat and focused despite the Game 5 loss in Beantown. “We’re playing at home on Monday night, and we’re all aware of the challenge we’re facing. We have to look at this challenge from a positive standpoint. We have to take things one period at a time and make sure that we play a solid game.”

That’s easier said than done when your top snipers are being neutralized time and again by a Bruins defensive effort that appears dead set on limiting time and space at every opportunity. Despite their inability to light the lamp as often as they’d like to, however, the Canadiens know full well that where there’s a will to get on the scoreboard, there’s most definitely a way.

“We have to put the puck in the net when the chances are there. That’s it. We had our chances on Saturday, but the Bruins capitalized on theirs more often than we did. It’s hard to come back against a team like that when you’re down, so taking the lead early like we did in the first few games will be key again,” stressed David Desharnais, who has one goal and three points in nine postseason tilts in 2014. “We’ll have to put even more pucks on net. We’re playing against a really good team. They’re one of the best teams at even-strength. If we can get power play opportunities and capitalize on them, we can use that momentum to try to get goals at even-strength.”

For his part, Thomas Vanek believes there’s no secret to the Canadiens finding their scoring mojo in time to extend their Eastern Conference semifinals series to a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday night at TD Garden.

“We’ve just got to put Game 5 out of our heads. We know we’re in a tough spot here. At the same time, we’ve played well at home, especially in the playoffs. We’ll be ready to go,” offered Vanek, who has two power play goals and three points in the series against Boston. “We knew all along that Boston had depth. But, so do we. I don’t think this series is about one or two players. It’s about depth. We still believe in this group, and we’ll be ready to go on Monday night. We need everyone going, and I’m part of that group. We’ve got to raise our game.”

That’s something Therrien touched on again on Sunday afternoon, stressing the need for every one of his players to take ownership of their game and step up to the plate against the Bruins in their own way come Game 6.

“Leadership is everyone’s responsibility. It doesn’t only come from one player. Throughout the year, I always ask my players to demonstrate leadership whether you’re in your first season or your 18th in the league. It brings a lot to our team,” mentioned Therrien. “On Monday night, I expect all of the guys involved in the game will bring that sense of leadership with them out there. We’ve faced adversity all season long and reacted the right way. I expect us to play with a lot of determination from here on out.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

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