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Julien: 'We cracked in the third'

The Canadiens went toe-to-toe with the Lightning for two periods on Saturday night, but that wasn't enough to come away with a victory

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

TAMPA - The Canadiens hung in with the League's top team for 40 minutes on Saturday night. Unfortunately, the Lightning were up to the task of playing the full 60.

After turning aside 34 shots in a losing effort, Carey Price didn't mince words when it came to pinpointing exactly where things went wrong versus Tampa Bay.

"It's a frustrating result, for sure, because we thought we played very well for 40 minutes, and for 20 we didn't show up," explained Price. "At the end of the day, I think it was the second intermission that was the turning point."

Video: Carey Price on the loss to the Lightning

The numbers certainly support Price's contention, as the Canadiens were outshot by a 17-4 margin in the final stanza.

Kucherov's power play tally at 2:26 definitely swung the Atlantic Division matchup in the Lightning's favor, and then Gourde's marker just 85 seconds later put the Habs on their heels for good.

"Even up to that point, they elevated their game and we didn't," mentioned Price, referencing Kucherov's goal, in particular. "We just didn't match their effort and just their everything."

Like Price, head coach Claude Julien cut to the chase when assessing the reason behind his group's downfall in the first of two straight games in the Sunshine State.

"We cracked in the third," said Julien. "That was the game right there, the fact that we didn't manage the third period as well as we wanted to."

Video: Claude Julien's postgame press conference @ TBL

Full credit to the Lightning

To say that the Lightning are a dangerous squad would be an understatement. 

Just ask Price.

"They're a good team. They've got a lot of poise with the puck. There's a reason why they're No. 1," explained Price. "They work well together. They know where each other are. They communicate well. They execute their game plan. They do everything that a good team does."

That includes seizing momentum when the opportunity presents itself. 

After Brett Kulak's goal at the 12:49 mark of the second period was overturned on a Coach's Challenge as the play was deemed to be offside, the Lightning just kept on plugging away and never looked back.

"The goal that gets called back on offside, that can change the swing of momentum. If that's a goal that's counted, I think we have the momentum there and I think that would help carry us for the remainder of the period," said defenseman Jeff Petry. "They got momentum off of that and they were able to capitalize on the power play. That kind of fueled them."

Video: Jeff Petry on coming up short against Tampa Bay

Lessons learned

Assistant captain Brendan Gallagher believes that the Habs' latest defeat serves as another key learning opportunity.

"This time of year, that's probably a good lesson for us. They came out there and they were the better team in the third. We felt like we were in a good spot. It was a pretty even game, but we kind of felt that we had some pretty good jump. But, they came out in the third and outplayed us pretty badly," explained Gallagher. "We gave them too many prime scoring chances and that's probably where we lost the game. It was a good lesson for our group."

According to Price, though, lessons like that should already be ingrained 58 games into a season. 

"Those lessons should be known," affirmed Price, who was clearly disappointed with the outcome at Amalie Arena. "We should know that we need to elevate our game at those points in the game."

Whatever the case may be, the Canadiens have to apply that line of thinking going forward if they hope to enjoy success in the long run.

"We need to find a way to push back in these types of games," concluded Petry. "We're going to be in more of these down the stretch here."

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