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Playoff notebook - May 4

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

TAMPA – In Monday’s playoff notebook, the importance of staying positive, keys to future success and the latest news on David Desharnais.

It ain’t over just yet: There’s no doubt about it. The Canadiens are in a tough spot right about now. But, Michel Therrien’s troops aren’t about to let the Lightning run away with this series just yet. Torrey Mitchell knows a thing or two about situations like these, having been a member of the San Jose Sharks squad that rallied back from a 3-0 series deficit against the Detroit Red Wings back in 2011 before eventually falling in seven games. Closing out a series is a tough proposition. The Canadiens learned that in their first-round series against the Ottawa Senators.

“Even in the last series, you saw how difficult it was for us to close things out in Ottawa,” recalled Mitchell, who picked up an assist on Jeff Petry’s tally in the first period on Sunday night. “We don’t feel like we’re done at all. We’re excited about the next game. That’s where our focus is at right now.”

Like Mitchell, Tom Gilbert insists that the team is still in high spirits after dropping a pair of contests on home ice. The fact that the Canadiens enjoyed plenty of success together throughout the 2014-15 campaign is keeping them motivated for what Game 3 has in store.

"We need to move on as quick as we can. We had great success all year long. It’s been this group of guys. We understand that it’s a seven-game series. To be down two games, you’ve kind of dug yourself a hole, but we still have a lot of belief in our locker room and the guys that we have. We have elite goaltending,” admitted Gilbert, who has two goals and three points during the playoffs. “I think if we keep sticking to it, we know we can beat this team. It doesn’t matter how many times they beat us throughout the regular season, Game 1 or Game 2. Game 1 could’ve gone either way. We started out Game 2 with a great first period. I think if we can just build off that and play a full 60 minutes, we’ll give ourselves a good chance to win.”

Committing to the cause: The Canadiens’ struggles on special teams were well-documented in Game 2. While the power play failed to generate anything significant on Sunday night in Montreal, the penalty kill was equally disappointing, surrendering four goals to Jon Cooper’s contingent in a 6-2 rout at the Bell Centre. Facing a 2-0 deficit heading into the next installment of the series on Wednesday night in Tampa, the Canadiens must avoid the penalty box if they hope to hand the Lightning a loss in their own barn.

“I think as Game 2 went on, we were a little bit undisciplined. That’s been a key to our success on the penalty kill, not giving the opposing team too many opportunities to score goals on the power play. That kind of dug us a hole a little bit. We were just a little bit off our game,” offered Gilbert, referencing a multitude of minor penalties the CH took throughout Game 2 that resulted in a pair of goals by Nikita Kucherov and tallies by Valtteri Filppula while the Lightning enjoyed opportunities with the man advantage. “They had some pretty good confidence going into their power play and they moved the puck well. I think we were a little bit slow.”

Head coach Michel Therrien would certainly agree with that assessment. The Canadiens’ bench boss didn’t mince words on Monday when discussing his team’s ongoing struggles in the special teams department.

“Our special teams units have to be better. The good thing is that they can only get better from here,” mentioned Therrien, whose squad will practice at Amalie Arena on Tuesday afternoon in downtown Tampa. “We’ve been a disciplined team all season long. On Sunday night, we made mistakes. We’re ready to move on.”

So, how do the Canadiens plan on turning things around in the discipline department after a lacklustre performance in Game 2?

“You need to watch your sticks. You need to have good body position, try not to get caught behind guys. It’s a little bit of both,” explained Mitchell. “We seemed like we were carrying the play in Game 2, and then all of a sudden we got into penalty trouble. The momentum switched. We feel like 5-on-5 we’ve done a lot of good things. There are so many momentum switches in the game. If we feel like we’re carrying the play, we can’t be taking stupid penalties.”

A possible return: Prior to the Canadiens’ departure for Tampa on Monday afternoon, the team announced that David Desharnais would not accompany the team to Florida for precautionary reasons. The veteran pivot missed Game 2 with the flu.

During a conference call on Monday afternoon, Therrien indicated that Desharnais might join the team in Tampa later in the week, and that he could return to the lineup in time to play Game 3 or Game 4.

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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Penalties kill
2015 Playoff Central

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