BROSSARD – While their collective backs might be up against the wall, there’s no shortage of belief inside the Canadiens locker room heading into Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise considering Michel Therrien’s troops have stared adversity directly in the face time and again during the 2013-14 campaign, and responded admirably at every opportunity, particularly during their current playoff run.
Down 3-1 in their best-of-seven series to the New York Rangers – and facing elimination for a third time this postseason – the Canadiens insist they boast the ingredients necessary to get the job done again this time around, even if the odds are greatly stacked against them.
“The guys are trying to stay positive. We played well in Game 4 on Sunday. We had our chances to win it, and pucks didn’t go in. Then Martin St-Louis scored on a great shot in overtime. We know we can play with them. We need to win three games in a row and it starts on Tuesday. Everyone in this room believes we’re capable of doing it,” offered Rene Bourque, who sits tied for the team lead with five playoff goals. “It’s possible to do it, and we believe we can. It might seem like an insurmountable lead, but if we believe we can do it, anything is possible.”
Fortunately, the Canadiens don’t have to look very far back in time for inspiration. Both the Rangers and Los Angeles Kings overcame similar series deficits in 2014, and the Habs are dead set on accomplishing a similar feat when all is said and done against New York.
“It’s all about creating some kind of momentum. You start doing things the way you’re supposed to, and everything falls into place. That’s how you create momentum. A few teams have been able to pull off this kind of comeback this year. It’s not impossible with the group of players we have here. We believe that it’s possible, and we think that we’ve been playing better hockey as the series has gone on,” offered captain Brian Gionta, who was one of seven current Habs that helped topple the Presidents' Trophy winning Washington Capitals after the Canadiens found themselves 3-1 down in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals back in 2010.
“We’re up against it here. You win or you go home,” added Gionta, who like Tomas Plekanec, Travis Moen, P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges and Carey Price, was part of a group that made NHL history when the Habs became the first eighth-seeded team to battle back against a top seed by coming out on top in three straight elimination tilts over the Caps. “We expect that we’re going to play the type of hockey and generate the type of effort that we brought against Boston.”
If the last three games of the series against the Rangers are any indication, that’s exactly what the Canadiens are going to have to do to keep their postseason hopes alive. With that in mind, the game plan from here on out is one that every member of the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge can agree on.
“We’ve got to take things one period at a time. The last step for the Rangers is the toughest one to make. We’re going to make it hard on them, and we’re going to use our crowd playing at home. We’ve got to take advantage of it,” stressed Plekanec, who has three goals and eight points in 15 playoff games in 2014. “I think the key for us is to focus on the first period and getting off to a good start. We don’t want to think about winning two more games. You’ve got to think about what’s coming up on the next shift, in the next period. I didn’t see one guy who was down after Game 4.”
That sense of togetherness and optimism has been a trademark of the Canadiens all season long, sustaining them through periods when things weren’t necessarily going in the right direction. At a time of year when all hands are needed on deck once again with their season on the line, the Habs bench boss maintains that his group cannot be underestimated, even under the most difficult of circumstances.
“We’ve faced this type of adversity and this type of challenge before, and we’ve always responded with a good attitude,” praised Therrien. “Based on the experience we picked up during the last series against the Bruins, I expect us to come out with the right attitude to play on Tuesday night. The important thing now is to take things one game at a time.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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