NASHVILLE – While the Canadiens didn’t leave the Music City with the result they were looking for, it appears that their overall game is rounding into playoff form.
On Tuesday night, Michel Therrien’s troops demonstrated plenty of grit in their 3-2 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena, giving one of the League’s top teams all it could handle and then some. Despite seeing their three-game winning streak come to an end, the Canadiens earned an all-important single point that enabled them to become the first team to reach the 100-point mark during the 2014-15 campaign. With eight games to go in the regular season, the Habs are right where they want to be – alone atop the NHL standings.
“It’s frustrating, but we played a strong game. A bounce is the difference in that game, obviously. The ice is bad at the end there and the puck bounces over someone’s stick. That’s the way it goes sometimes, but you’ve got to give everyone in this room credit. Everyone played really well. I think it’s one of our better team games in a while. It’s frustrating to not get the two points for Carey,” offered Max Pacioretty, referencing the unfortunate luck P.K. Subban had during the extra frame when a bad bounce forced him to take a tough penalty that led to Filip Forsberg’s game-winning tally 1:54 into overtime.
“We’ve got eight games left. We’re just trying to get better every game and get into playoff mode before it comes,” added Pacioretty, whose squad leads the Atlantic Division by one point over the rival Tampa Bay Lightning through 74 games played. “We like the game and the effort we gave against Nashville, but not the result. We’re just going to worry about Winnipeg now.”
This time of year, that really is the best way to approach things. After all, points are increasingly hard to come by and every single one means that much more with playoff positioning at stake night in and night out.
“Teams that we’re playing have all upped their intensity. We went through a stretch where we needed to realize that and match that urgency level. I think we’ve been doing a better job of it and it showed against the Predators,” mentioned Brendan Gallagher, who along with David Desharnais managed to solve Predators netminder Pekka Rinne in the Canadiens’ lone visit of the regular season to Tennessee. “It really showed in our play. We’re a much better team. We’re intense. We’re on pucks. When we’re rolling four lines like we are now, it’s fun to be a part of. They executed one more play than we did, and they deserved the extra point.”
Head coach Michel Therrien shared similar thoughts after watching his hockey club demonstrate the compete level that has defined their play for the better part of the year.
“We played a good game. The guys worked hard and created some good scoring chances. The Predators were lucky on the second goal [to tie the game]. Then, with P.K.’s penalty in overtime, we saw the puck bounce at the blue line. The breaks just weren’t on our side,” explained Therrien, whose contingent is now just two points away from officially clinching a playoff berth. “We’re taking things one game at a time, but hitting the 100-point plateau is still an accomplishment. It shows that we’ve managed to be consistent all season long. There’s still a long way to go, though. We want to be in a good position for the playoffs. That was the top priority and it’s tough to do. Once you know that you’ll be there, you definitely want to position yourself as best as possible.”
The Canadiens will certainly be there, and if they offer up the type of effort they showcased against a Western Conference powerhouse like the Predators, they’ll undoubtedly wreak havoc on whoever they match up against in the postseason.
“We want to finish first and pick up as many wins as possible until the end of the regular season. If we play like that going forward, we’ll win more games than we lose,” offered Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, who collected an assist for a second straight game on Tuesday night. “It was a good hockey game. It could’ve gone either way, but we managed to hit 100 points. We can be proud of that and hold our heads up high.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
The Numbers Game: March 24, 2015
The final countdown
Thriving on change
Sign of respect