SUNRISE - If coming out flat in the third period was the turning point against the Tampa Bay Lightning, getting off to lackluster start proved costly versus the Florida Panthers.
Claude Julien's troops surrendered the first two goals of the game on Sunday night, and found themselves playing catchup after that.
Even though they eventually tied things up at three goals apiece, finishing the job was just too big of a mountain to climb.
The Panthers went on to score three unanswered goals from there on out, including an empty-netter, to hand the Canadiens a 6-3 loss at the BB&T Center.
"We can't go down to any team in this League that early," said captain Shea Weber, referencing the 2-0 hole the Habs were in by the 11:28 mark of the opening frame. "Especially on back-to-backs, you're expending a lot of energy coming back."
Video: Shea Weber on the loss to the Panthers
In his first start since February 2, Antti Niemi surrendered three goals on nine shots before being pulled in favor of Carey Price during the first period.
None of the veteran Finnish netminder's teammates were about to attribute their third consecutive defeat in regulation time to him, though.
"Those first three goals, those are on us as a team. It's not Nemo, it's us," said Max Domi, who scored twice to set a new single-season high with 19 goals on the year and reached the 50-point plateau in the process. "We'll take responsibility for that."
Like Domi, defenseman Mike Reilly was quick to assume some blame for a less-than-stellar start to their final stop on a road trip that ultimately yielded zero points.
"I think that wasn't too fair to him. He's one of the hardest workers I've ever been around. He comes to work every single day and just works his butt off," mentioned Reilly. "He realizes how many times he's going to get in and he just works so hard. I kind of feel bad for him. We kind of let him down."
Video: Mike Reilly on letting Antti Niemi down
No panic in this group
Dropping three straight regulation decisions is unfamiliar territory for this edition of the Canadiens. It hasn't happened all season long.
During his postgame press conference, Julien was adamant that the Habs' current struggles have absolutely nothing to do with being complacent about their position in the standings before the trip began.
"We don't need a wake-up call. We know exactly where we are. We knew exactly where we stood. Nobody got comfortable here," stressed Julien. "We're going through a tough time right now. I call it a slump. We're fighting the puck and nothing seems to be smooth right now. We've got to work on finding that and it's as simple as that."
Video: MTL Recap: Domi scores twice in loss to Panthers
That makes Tuesday night's tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Bell Centre all the more important, according to Domi.
"We've got to be better. The next game is absolutely huge. We've got to start winning some hockey games. We know what we have to do," mentioned the Canadiens' leading point-getter. "We're going to stick together as a group and we've got confidence in one another. We're going to work hard and we're going to push each other and hold each other accountable and we'll be fine."
Defenseman Jordie Benn is certainly in agreement there.
"There's no reason to panic. We've just got to deal with a little adversity," insisted Benn. "Every team is going to go through it, so we've just got to look forward to the next game and get a couple of points."
Nevertheless, the veteran bench boss knows full well that turning the tables on a rough stretch can often prove extra difficult.
"That first win is going to be a tough one," said Julien. "Once we get it, hopefully we'll be back on track and hopefully that happens on Tuesday night."
Video: Claude Julien's postgame press conference @ FLA