MONTREAL – Closing out the Ottawa Senators is proving complicated, but the Canadiens aren’t about to push the panic button just yet.
Despite dropping a 5-1 decision to Dave Cameron’s contingent in Game 5 on Friday night at the Bell Centre, Michel Therrien’s troops are still just one win away from moving on to Round 2, clinging to a 3-2 series lead.
While it definitely wasn’t the rebound performance the Canadiens were looking for after being blanked in the nation’s capital in Game 4, the CH remains confident that securing the all-important fourth and final victory over their Atlantic Division rivals is a matter of executing on a few key details in the immediate vicinity of Senators netminder Craig Anderson.
“We’ve got to find ways to put pucks in the net. I think we did a better job of putting pucks and bodies to the net in Game 5. It’s still not perfect. You saw [Craig] Anderson get a little bit irritated at the end when we started to get more body presence to the net. I think going forward we’re going to need even more of that. He can’t stop what he can’t see. Weise did a great job on Gilbert’s goal. We need more of that,” stressed Max Pacioretty, who was one of 10 players to register at least three shots on goal on Friday night, accounting for three of the Canadiens’ 46 shots on the Ottawa netminder. “We’ve scored three goals in the last three games. That’s not enough. The offense has to step up now and try and contribute more.”
If that’s going to happen, the Canadiens are going to have to make Anderson’s life absolutely miserable in Game 6 on Sunday night at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa. That means giving the American netminder a hard time at every opportunity, particularly when shots are fired in his direction. So far, the 12-year NHL veteran has played the role of playoff performer to perfection. He’s stopped 120 of 123 shots on goal since taking over from upstart goaltender Andrew Hammond to start Game 3.
“We had them at times, but not enough to put those pucks in. We somehow went there, but we needed that second guy to be there to get that rebound or take his eyes away a little bit. That was the key,” explained Tomas Plekanec, whose squad conceded the opening goal for a fifth consecutive game on Friday night. “We’ve got to make it tougher on Anderson some more, get more guys around the net and score the first goal. Once they score the first goal, they can just play their defensive system. We need to try to score first and keep pushing from there.”
Carey Price is certainly in agreement with that assessment. The Vezina Trophy nominee insists that beating his counterpart is simply a matter of throwing everything they conceivably can in his general direction.
“We have to take away his eyes. That’s what they do. That’s why they have success. If we put 50 pucks on net during a game, we should see a few go in,” offered Price, who turned aside 20 of 25 shots against in Game 5. “When you go up against a hot goaltender, the recipe isn’t a complicated one. You have to create traffic in front of him and capitalize on rebounds. It’s no secret to anybody.”
With that in mind, Price insists that the Canadiens haven’t lost their collective cool just yet. After all, they’re the ones who, despite back-to-back losses, are still just one solid effort short of securing a berth in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals for a second consecutive season.
“The solutions can be found in this room. We have enough experience from last year’s run to know what we have to do. We’re still in the driver’s seat. We have to take what we know and move forward,” mentioned Price. “We still have room to manoeuver. They’re still the ones with their backs against the wall. You can’t really talk about pressure just yet.”
Fortunately, history really is on the Canadiens’ side under these circumstances. The Habs have gone on to win 28 of the 31 playoff series they’ve led by a 3-2 margin in team history, which surely bodes well for the immediate future. Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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