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No time to rest

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – After failing to deliver the goods against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a day off from practice certainly wasn’t in order.

On Tuesday, head coach Michel Therrien convened his troops at the Bell Sports Complex for a video session, some on-ice work and some introspection, as the Canadiens tried to shore up a few areas in their game that seemingly went awry against Jon Cooper’s contingent in their most recent outing. With a tilt against another fast-paced team in the Washington Capitals on the horizon come Thursday night, hitting the ice was a must. It was also the perfect way for the CH to learn from their mistakes and get the 5-3 loss to the Lightning out of their system.

“In this League, if you’re not competing, you’re not very good. That’s been a strength of our team. It wasn’t good enough [against Tampa Bay]. We gave up way too many scoring chances. We got outbattled. We got outcompeted at times. As players, that’s the one thing that you hate to say and you hate to admit. It’s what we pride ourselves on,” offered Brendan Gallagher, whose squad suffered its fifth straight loss to Tampa Bay on Monday night, as the Lightning completed the regular season sweep. “Last night just wasn’t good enough, so we’re all disappointed and quite frankly we didn’t deserve the day off. I think we were all happy to come to the rink today and get better. That’s what we did.”

Like Gallagher, Dale Weise looked at Tuesday’s practice session as an opportunity to right the ship after failing to execute time and again against Steven Stamkos & Co. on home ice.

“We reviewed a few sequences from Monday’s game. It wasn’t really about our system, but about execution. It’s good sometimes to look at video the next morning and analyze sequences one by one. It reminds us that the sky isn’t falling on our heads. Those were just mistakes that the other team was able to take advantage of,” stressed Weise, who took a tough double-minor early in the second period on Monday night that resulted in the Lightning’s second goal of the game. “Our compete level is good. I think we got a good wake-up call a few weeks ago when we lost a few games in a row. Since then, our compete level has been better. On Monday, it was just a bundle of errors against a good team. You have to give them a little credit.”

That goes without saying. After all, the Lightning still boast the most potent offense in the League, and they’re one team in particular you simply can’t slip up against, especially with playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference still very much on the line.

“This game really opened our eyes a little bit. We made mistakes on Monday that weren’t characteristic of our playing style. That was the emphasis at practice,” explained Tom Gilbert, who hopes to return to the Canadiens’ lineup on Thursday night after missing the last four games with a fractured jaw. “We just have to be better. We have to play intelligent hockey and bring a consistent effort.”

One game, however, does not define an entire season. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that the Canadiens were still holding their heads up high less than 24 hours after suffering their 22nd loss of the year in regulation time.

“As negative as I think that game was, you’ve got to take it as a positive experience. We have to get better from this. We have to understand the situation we’re in, battle through this adversity and if we can come through this strong enough, it’s only going to make us better. We came to the rink with a positive attitude,” concluded Gallagher. “It’s a time of year where you can’t have any weak links, you’ve got to be united and everyone’s got to be on the same page. I can tell you in this room that guys haven’t lost confidence. We understand that we’re working for another opportunity to play them. We haven’t lost that confidence against that team. It’s just a matter of us executing. We had success last year in the playoffs for a certain reason. It’s just a matter of getting back to that and shoring up our game as a group.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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