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False start

Habs return from bye week, fall 3-1 to Jets in first game under Julien

by Steven Nechay @CanadiensMTL /

MONTREAL -- The boost of a new head coach wasn't enough to snap the curse of the bye week on Saturday.

NHL teams are under .250 this season when coming out of the league-mandated week off, and not even a rejuvenated Habs squad -- buoyed by new blood behind the bench -- was able to buck the trend.

"It wasn't a strong game. We got outplayed, especially in our end, and that made it tough to create anything offensively. That's something we'll need to clean up," underlined captain Max Pacioretty, who was held without a shot against the visiting Jets. "We obviously all want to play better -- especially when our goalie plays well -- but we're a team in here."

Indeed, while the Canadiens as a whole came out a little flat -- Montreal was outshot 33-20, and outhit 48-33 -- the week off did appear to have some encouraging effects on Carey Price.

"Personally, I felt a lot better. It's always nice to get some time off to refocus and reset," admitted the All-Star netminder, who made 30 saves in the 3-1 effort -- including a pair of spectacular glove grabs on Patrik Laine. "I didn't think about hockey at all. I put it at the back of mind, which is what I do during the summer as well. I think it's good to take a break from the game every once in awhile. Physically, I felt a little bit better -- not as worn down."

Video: WPG@MTL: Price flashes the leather to rob Laine

While the change on Price was observable, the change of a new head coach leaving his stamp on the team will take awhile longer to come into view.

But while his contemporaries in St. Louis and Boston may have gone 5-1-0 and 3-0-0, respectively, after both clubs named new head coaches this month, Julien prefers to draw his precedents from the reigning Cup champs.

"This team is much better than the one you saw today, and they will continue to be moving forward," stressed the returning Habs bench boss. "I can use the example of last year in Pittsburgh -- a new coach comes in, then struggles a little until things are put into place. I still need to sort out some things I'd like to see on the ice, then hopefully things will turn around and we get the same result. There were a lot of things today that I wasn't able to see until a game situation."

Video: Julien on his first game back in Montreal

Fortunately then, Julien and the Habs now have a rare pair of consecutive practice days to take what they've learned to heart before visiting the Rangers on Tuesday.

"It's not too often this year that we get two practices in a row between games, so we'll see what the video says, and how we can improve," concluded Pacioretty. "We still have a good thing going, but we want to use these two days to really dive into the tweaks to our game. We'll work on what we want to brush up on, and then get on a roll."

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