TAMPA BAY – A lopsided loss at the hands of the Lightning wasn’t the way the Canadiens envisioned closing out their season-opening four-game road swing, but they’re still returning to Montreal with six out of a possible eight points in the bank.
Outgunned and outmanned in the opening 20 minutes of play for a fourth straight game, Michel Therrien’s troops were unable to find the magic that had enabled them to stage dramatic comebacks during tilts in Toronto, Washington and Philadelphia, suffering a 7-1 defeat at Amalie Arena.
“At the end of the day, these things are going to happen, whether you play four games in six nights or not. It may happen again. There are 82 games in a season. That’s a lot of hockey. At the end of the day, we’re going to take this, probably going to park it, maybe talk about a few things and get ready for our next game. All in all, I thought we had a good road trip,” offered P.K. Subban in the aftermath of a tilt in which the Canadiens were outshot by a 41-17 margin overall, including 18-1 in the third period alone. “We can’t beat ourselves up after this. Like I said, we had a good road trip.”
Unfortunately, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman weren’t about to let the Habs head home with an undefeated record. The two-time Maurice Richard Trophy winner notched his eighth career hat trick, while Hedman scored a goal and added three assists to pace Jon Cooper’s contingent to their second win of the season.
“I think we’ve got to learn from this. I think much like last year after we beat Boston [in Game 7], we came out in Game 1 of the next series [against the Rangers] and we had a letdown after a big emotional win,” explained Brendan Gallagher, who scored the Canadiens’ lone goal on Lightning netminder Ben Bishop. “I think in Philly, we had a big comeback. It was an emotional win for our group, and we came in here and had another letdown. I think as a group, we just need to learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
While putting Monday night’s defeat in the rear view mirror as soon as possible will be instrumental in making that a reality, so will finding the ingredients necessary to ensure the power play begins to fire on all cylinders. Through four games, the Canadiens haven’t yet lit the lamp with the man advantage, going 0-for-14 during that span.
“We’ve generated some opportunities. We’ve created some quality scoring chances, but we just haven’t put the puck in the net. At the end of the day, we want to score. We’d like to score on every power play, but it’s not going to happen. A successful power play is all about generating momentum,” offered Subban, whose squad went 0-for-4 on the power play against the Lightning, but conceded two goals while down a man. “We’ve got to bare down. But, we’re still figuring out our identity as a team. We know how we want to play. It takes time for this to come together. We’ll just park it and get ready for the next game.”
In situations like these, that’s all you can really do. If anyone understands that, it’s a veteran bench boss like Michel Therrien.
“We didn’t play a good game. We have to forget about it and focus on the next one,” stressed Therrien, who will lead the Canadiens up against the rival Bruins in the home opener on Thursday night at the Bell Centre. “We have to look at the big picture. We picked up six points on the trip. Before we left town, we knew we had a big challenge ahead of us. We still managed to pick up six points.”
While the Canadiens won’t see the Lightning again until January in Montreal, Subban wasted little time making it known that the Tampa Bay captain shouldn’t count on upping his point total against his club the next time around.
“It wasn’t our best game out there. He scored some goals. We know he can do that. Our team, when we’re playing well, i.e., in the playoffs last year, when we faced him we were a lot better than we were tonight,” offered Subban, who played a part in limiting Stamkos to just two goals and four points during the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last season. “I’d tell Steven to enjoy it, because the next time it’s not going to happen.”
That’s the type of resolve that will undoubtedly enable the Canadiens to set their sights on getting back on track against Boston later on in the week.
“I’ve been told my whole life that you’re never as good as you think you are when you’re winning games, and you’re never as bad as you think you are when you’re losing games, but there are certainly a lot of areas that we need to be better in,” concluded Gallagher. “A lot of mistakes were made. But, we still have a lot of confidence in this group. It’s just a matter of correcting those mistakes and making sure we’re better when we get back home.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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