TAMPA – Teams usually don’t start keeping an eye on the playoff race until at least the New Year, but for the Canadiens and Lightning, every point matters.
Neither team has had the start to the 2011-12 campaign they were hoping for and now sitting 12th and 13th in the East, respectively, both clubs have their work cut out for them if they want to earn that coveted playoff-clinching “x” in the standings this spring.
“They’re all important from here on out so tonight is the biggest game of the year,” offered Josh Gorges, whose team is currently five points out of eighth in the conference. “If we take a team like this lightly because they’re lower than us in the standings, they’re going to mop the floor with us. They have too many guys who create plays and make things happen. We have to be sharp and we have to be on our toes and we have to be pushing the pace and playing down in their end as much as we can.”
While the Habs will be looking to carry the offensive touch that saw them walk away with a 6-2 win over the Sens on Tuesday night into Thursday’s game, the Lightning are coming off a 5-1 win of their own over the league’s highest scoring team, the Philadelphia Flyers.
“We know they’re in the same situation as us,” explained Mathieu Darche, who spent the 2007-08 season in Tampa. “They’re coming off a big win against a very good team in their last game. They’re a team that’s finding itself and looking to string together some wins. Tonight, one team is going to leave happy and the other one isn’t. We’re ready and we’re excited. We know why we were successful in Ottawa and we’re ready to do more of the same tonight.”
The Canadiens won’t be heading to St. Pete Time’s Forum just hoping to carry over the play that saw seven different Habs record multi-point nights in Ottawa; they’ve already managed to figure out exactly what went right for them on Tuesday night.
“We got going early even though they got the first goal. Once we made it 1-1, it was like after that we got a boost and kept riding on that momentum,” described Lars Eller, who scored the short-handed goal to draw the Habs even at one. “We were going to the net. Pleky’s goal and Cammy’s goals are good examples of having two guys in front of the goalie and rebounds will go to your sticks if you’re in the right position. You could also see that there was more confidence in our game overall than in the last few games.”
Having seen his team blow a few late game leads through the first half of the season, Eller was also able to identify the biggest difference-maker of all.
“When we were going into the third period we just kept stepping on the gas,” he concluded. “We weren’t afraid to lose; we just wanted to win.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
Comments: Gorges, Diaz, Darche, Cunneyworth
Notebook - Dec. 28, 2011
Recipe for success