MONT-TREMBLANT – When you win three-straight in a series as physical as the one between the Habs and Sens, you earn the right to a little R&R.
Through a trio of Eastern Conference quarterfinal games so far, Montreal and Ottawa have combined to dish out 277 total hits, more than any other series this postseason. Upping the ante in that department on Sunday while trying to dig out of an 0-2 hole by any means necessary, the Senators threw more than their fair share of those checks – 61 to be precise – during Game 3 alone.
Outlasting the Sens’ Sunday hit parade to the tune of a 2-1 comeback win in overtime, the Habs were rewarded for their efforts with not just a commanding 3-0 series lead, but also a day’s rest among the mountains in the picturesque Mont-Tremblant region.
“Back in their building, down 2-0, we knew they were going to come out hard, so we just wanted to make sure that we did the exact same thing right back to them. I thought we did a good job – it definitely wasn’t the best effort we’re capable of, but we didn’t quit and kept battling. That’s the character of this team,” described Brandon Prust, who pitched in with a hit, and his second point of the postseason at the Canadian Tire Centre over the weekend. “These are the playoffs, and now it’s important to have some rest. After last night, you could see the guys were exhausted. It’s good to have a couple days off to regroup. It’s good for both the body and the mind.”
Coming into the postseason with an open mind, it also didn’t take long for at least one playoff rookie to recognize the benefits of Monday’s retreat.
“I’ve always heard that the playoffs are more intense and it’s true. Guys are more physical and there’s less time to make plays. We knew Ottawa was going to come out strong in their building to play a physical game and try to take things over that way. We just had to weather the storm in the first, which I think we did a good job of,” said Jeff Petry, who has averaged an impressive four hits per game during his first career playoff round. “Now we’ll rest, hang out with the guys, do a little bonding, and be fresh and ready to go on Wednesday.”
Having arrived in Montreal at the NHL trade deadline, Petry and a handful of other Habs newcomers will also use the retreat as an opportunity to continue getting to know the group of guys they’re hoping to spend a lot more time with this spring.
“From Day 1, everyone’s been really welcoming. It was already a close group when I got here, but the guys have been incredible with us since the trade deadline,” acknowledged fellow March 2 acquisition Torrey Mitchell, whose Game 1 goal earned him second star status on Wednesday. “Tonight we’ll be talking hockey, watching the other games around the league and building friendships. It’s just good to be around everyone right now.”
If head coach Michel Therrien has whet his team’s appetite for some vacation time during the toughest stretch of the year, the Habs also know more could be on the horizon by getting the job done early in the nation’s capital during Game 4.
“We haven’t won anything yet. Four [wins] is still the goal, and we don’t want to change anything,” concluded Petry. “We want to keep our foot on the gas and not give them anything to work with when we meet again on Wednesday.”
Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com