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Connect four

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – The Canadiens are heading to Ottawa ready to rack up the elusive fourth win.

THE BIG FIVE: The Habs have gotten timely scoring from different players throughout the lineup, but some of the team’s biggest offensive weapons have been conspicuously quiet in the series against the Sens so far. As the cliché goes, to win in the playoffs, your best players have to be your best players, and in five first round games, the team’s Top 5 scoring leaders from the regular season have accounted for just nine points between them, something the big guns are planning on changing ahead of Game 6.

“Playoffs aren’t easy. There isn’t much room out there, but we need to take our game up a notch. We need to go get the next win and that’s going to start with our top two lines,” admitted David Desharnais, who has two assists so far this postseason, both of which came in Game 2 against Ottawa. “I don’t think we’re frustrated. Obviously we would have liked to have won, but there are still two games left. The team that wins the fourth game of the series is going to be a lot less frustrated than the other one.”

TAKING ADVANTAGE: Having finished the regular season 23rd in the NHL with a 16.5% power play efficiency, the Canadiens are used to answering questions about how to bolster their play with the man advantage. Now sitting second last among 16 playoff teams with a 5.3% efficiency, they know the solution to building on their current 1-for-19 record on power play opportunities is a simple one.

“We’re moving the puck around well, we’re getting in on the breakouts. It’s just a matter of generating shots and getting guys there. If it doesn’t go in on the first one, you have to have guys there to bang in rebounds,” explained Jeff Petry, who has averaged 1:52 of power play action per game in the postseason, third among all Habs blue-liners behind P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov in that category. “They’ve blocked shots, but we just need to find a way to get pucks to the net and move the puck to the point where they’re coming out of position so you can get a clean shot off. You have to take it as it is. If a power play doesn’t click on the first one, we can’t let that affect our mentality or our mindset for the rest of the game.”

HOT HANDS: Prior to Game 1, discussion surrounding the Habs-Sens series focused on a goaltending match-up between Vezina finalist Carey Price and rookie netminder Andrew Hammond, who entered the postseason riding an incredible 1.79 GAA and .941 save percentage through 24 games following the All-Star break. A week into the playoffs, there’s a new goalie duel taking place in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, with Craig Anderson leading all NHLers with a stellar .976 save percentage through three games, including a 45-save effort in Game 4. The Canadiens were able to chase Hammond from the net with a pair of wins to open the series, and they’ll be looking to do the same to another red-hot Ottawa netminder at the Canadian Tire Centre on Sunday night.

“The one goal we got yesterday, I think I was a half a foot in front of him. He can’t stop what he can’t see,” stressed Dale Weise, who screened Anderson to help Tom Gilbert’s shot slip through for the team’s only goal on Friday night. “There are pucks bouncing off our sticks in front. It’s going to come. You get 50 shots and score one goal, that’s not going to happen very often. I don’t care who’s in the net. We’ll keep doing what we’re doing. It’s going to get through.”

STRIKING MIDNIGHT: The Cinderella Sens made a magical run to the postseason by erasing a 14-point gap to clinch one of two wild card spots in the East. After falling behind 0-3 in the series, the Senators found themselves in a familiar spot and responded the way they did throughout their push to the playoffs, rallying back with a pair of wins to force a Game 6 in Ottawa. While the series has gotten closer than they might have liked, for the players in the Canadiens’ dressing room, nothing changes between leading 3-0 and leading 3-2. The focus on Sunday will be the same as it’s been since Game 4: win, and you’re in.

“Playoffs are a day-to-day thing. You have to move on to the next game. Momentum changes from game to game, it doesn’t continue over,” said Weise, who scored both goals in a 2-1 overtime victory in Ottawa in Game 3. “It’s a real character group in here. I really like our team when it comes down to the big moments. Forget about the past; we have to win one game. You win one game, you move on.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

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