TORONTO – It was a tough Saturday night for the Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre.
Coming off a 5-1 win in Buffalo to clinch a playoff spot on Thursday night, the Habs arrived in Toronto facing a team fighting to earn a spot in the postseason for the first time in seven years. The Leafs came out hungry, potting three goals by the midway mark of the first period to head into the intermission with a 4-1 lead.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” admitted P.K. Subban, who had six shots and played a game-high 24:49 against the Leafs. “Obviously we wanted a better start. We have to come out ready to play. I didn’t think we were aggressive enough. We knew this game was huge for them; they needed these two points. We needed to play with that sense of urgency. I don’t think we had it early enough in the game and it ended up costing us.”
Despite outshooting Toronto by a comfortable 37-28 margin, the Habs were only able to put one goal – Davis Drewiske’s first as a Hab – past James Reimer in the game.
“There was no quit on our side. We had a lot of shots early and we had some chances; we didn’t bury them. We’ve got to stick with it,” explained Subban. “Sometimes you’re going to face adversity. Sometimes you’re playing well and the puck doesn’t bounce your way.
“We have to stick to the plan and we have to have that sense of urgency,” he stressed. “When we have that chip on our shoulder and we’re playing hard and we’re getting pucks deep and we’re on the puck, we’re a tough team to play against. I thought we made it too easy for them early on in the game.”
Down three games to one against their longtime rivals in the season series, the Habs have been outscored 15-7 in four games against Toronto this year. The Leafs are also the only team that’s managed to beat the Canadiens more than once in regulation in 2012-13.
“We have to find an answer for them and we get them one more time at the end of the season,” offered Habs captain Brian Gionta, of the Canadiens’ season-ending tilt against Toronto on April 27. “[Tonight] is something we want to forget and put behind us. We were off on our passes, off on our chances, and just out of sync the whole game. When we’re skating and when we’re moving and forcing turnovers and exploiting the other team’s D down low, we’re a good team. We weren’t able to establish that tonight.”
Despite seeing his team earn its 10th regulation loss of the year – the last team in the Eastern Conference to hit double digits in losses – Michel Therrien isn’t worried about Saturday representing the beginning of a trend for his troops.
“We had some good scoring chances and we were skating well. There have been a few games we probably shouldn’t have won and our goalie stole them for us,” described the Habs head coach. “Tonight was a tough one. But this is a team with a lot of character and these are the kinds of athletes who are going to bounce back from this.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
Game Highlights: Canadiens-Leafs