MONTREAL -- The NFL's two best teams will meet on Sunday, but on Saturday the Habs put up a fight against the class of the NHL.
Down 3-2 in the third period with time ticking away, the Canadiens did everything but score as they buzzed around the Washington net looking for the late equalizer in the opening game of their traditional Super Bowl weekend double-header.
"We had a bunch of chances [as a group], and [Alex Galchenyuk] had two or three just to himself as well," acknowledged Max Pacioretty, who tallied his 25th of the season with 12:11 to go to pull the Habs within one. "The chances were there against one of the best goalies in the league. We just fell short today."
Video: WSH@MTL: Pacioretty buries follow-up chance
Indeed, Shea Weber nearly sent things into extra time with a wide open net and under a minute to go, if not for -- literally -- a bad bounce.
"[The puck] jumped over my stick. I thought I saw some net, but it unfortunately just bounced at the wrong time. We had a couple of chances obviously -- right before that, Chucky had a couple of whacks at [the puck] at the side of the net, but we couldn't find a way to get it in," explained Weber, who once again led the Habs with 26:51 of ice time. "On a positive note, we showed a lot of character when we were down 3-1 there to battle back and almost tie it up."
Following a forgettable 3-1 loss in Philadelphia on Thursday in which Montreal was outshot 24-16 and out hit 34-19, Saturday afternoon was a small step in the right direction, but there's still work to be done.
"When we're on our heels and we're not coming out of our end with control of the puck, that's when we run into problems. It wasn't like that too much today -- maybe a little -- but definitely not like in Philly. In Philly, I felt like we didn't come out of the zone with control of the puck, and we were on our heels for most of the night," described Pacioretty, who was joined by Alexander Radulov as the afternoon's two goalscorers. "[Washington's] the hottest team in the league, and we had to dig a little deeper than we did to get the two points today."
Fortunately, a shot at redemption is now less than 24 hours away as the Habs get set to go at it once again on Sunday against Edmonton.
"I think [today] was definitely a better effort than in Philadelphia, but there's always room to grow," stressed defenseman Jeff Petry. "There are always things to correct in a game, so we're definitely going to look at the tape today, and then get ready for our quick turnaround tomorrow. We'll learn from this one, forget about it, and get ready for Sunday."