MONTREAL – When you spend nearly one period's worth of minutes in the box, chances are the boxscore won’t be in your favor.
A struggling power play finally exploded on Sunday, only unfortunately, it wasn’t the one Habs fans have been hoping for.
Bursting out of the gate for the second time in as many games in their Round 2 series against Tampa, things looked promising early as the Habs not only outshot, outskated, and out-chanced the Lightning in the opening frame, but also scored the game’s first goal – a wrister courtesy of Jeff Petry – for just the second time through playoff eight games this spring.
But then the penalties started adding up – beginning with a trio of two-minute minors in the final 6:15 of the first – and Tampa's power play unit got to work.
“We got the start we were looking for tonight, before taking some really bad penalties at the end of the first period,” described head coach Michel Therrien, who saw Valtteri Filppula notch the Lightning's first power play goal of the night at 19:36 in the first to tie the game heading into intermission. “It’s pretty simple; indiscipline cost us the game, and it’s unacceptable.”
It would be hard to point the finger anywhere else after the Habs racked up 53 penalty minutes on Sunday, handing the Bolts eight power play opportunities – four of which the team capitalized on after previously going just two for 34 since the start of the playoffs.
“We have to realize that there are going to be some games like this, but the postseason isn’t the time for them,” confirmed defenseman P.K. Subban, whose cross checking call in the first led to the Tampa equalizer. “They showed us why they scored the most goals in the league this year. We know we’ve got to clean that undisciplined stuff up if we’re going to have an opportunity to dig ourselves out of this hole now.”
Now trailing 0-2 in the best-of-seven series, the Canadiens face a tough test as the series shifts to Tampa for Games 3 and 4 beginning on Wednesday, but fortunately not an impossible one. Proving it can be done, the Canadiens have bounced back from 0-2 series deficits five times to ultimately move on to the next round, including most recently in 2004 against Boston.
The Habs also benefitted from a valuable takeaway from 2014’s Conference final against the New York Rangers, despite falling just short of finishing the job a year ago.
“We made it a series, but we didn’t win the series. In that series we were down 2-0 – we lost two at home right away – and we learned that now’s the time to let it all loose,” prescribed Max Pacioretty, who leads the team in goals this postseason. “There’s no holding back now. We’ve got to empty the tank every shift, every night from this point forward. They’re too good of a team to sit back on our heels against for even one more period. As the series goes on now, we’ve got to play the right way – play hard for 60 minutes like we did through the first 20 tonight.”
After sweeping the Lightning in four games just over a year ago, there’s still plenty of time for the Habs to prove that series wasn’t an anomaly.
“We’ve got two days to figure it out now,” concluded Pacioretty, ahead of leaving for Tampa on Monday morning. “Two days to get better, get in the right mindset, and get the right attitude to come back.”Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com
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