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Goodbye, 2011

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

SUNRISE – Randy Cunneyworth has a pretty simple New Year’s resolution in mind for his players in 2012.

Two nights after losing to the Lightning despite a last-minute rally, it was déjà vu for the Canadiens in Sunrise. Despite coming out strong against the Panthers on Saturday night, the Habs ended up on the losing end of a 3-2 result in a scene that has become all too familiar this season.

According to the coach, the key to his team’s success will be learning to play with a sense of urgency before things actually get urgent.

Erik Cole's last-minute goal

“We have to make our own bounces. That [comes] through hard work and desperation,” explained Randy Cunneyworth following his seventh game as the team’s head coach. “The way we played at the very end where we were throwing everything at the end and we had guys crashing there, that’s what we have to do 5-on-5 at any time throughout the game.”

The architect of the team’s late push, Erik Cole scored with just 30 seconds left in regulation following an empty net goal by the Panthers to make it a one-goal game. Just like they did on Thursday night, the Habs pulled out all the stops looking for the tying goal that never came.

“It’s never too late,” underlined Cole, who scored his 200th career NHL goal on the play. “We had a few chances there at the end but our power play had to be better tonight. If we could’ve gotten one it maybe could have helped keep the momentum on our side. We had a really good first period. I could sit here and we could take the same quotes we had from the other night in Tampa; it’s been the same story over and over again and we need to fix it.”

Currently sitting 13th in the Eastern Conference with a 14-18-7 record, the Canadiens know they have an uphill battle ahead of them. Cunneyworth also realizes that in order to make sure his team is still playing come springtime, he’ll need to start seeing playoff-caliber performances from his players in each of the remaining 44 games on the schedule.

“It’s very baffling. We show we can do it at the end but we have to do it from the opening faceoff,” admitted Cunneyworth. “That’s the way the game is played now. You can’t take anything for granted; you can’t pace yourself in any way. You have to go out there and give everything you have on a given shift. Short, hard shifts. Go out there, bang and crash and throw everything at the net. It’s a pretty simple game.

“We have to play physical, we have to be hit and we have to make hits,” added the Habs bench boss, whose team tied the Panthers with 33 hits on Saturday night. “Those are the things we have to do throughout the game. You don’t wait until the very end to play that way. We have to start that way and we have to finish that way. That’s the bottom line in my mind.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for

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