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Never back down

Claude Julien's troops are primed to prolong their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series and send it back to Montreal

by Matt Cudzinowski @canadiensmtl /

NEW YORK - The Canadiens will be fighting to save their season on Saturday night in Manhattan, and they're well aware of what it will take to get the job done.

Playoff experience has taught both head coach Claude Julien and a fair share of his players plenty of lessons over the years about turning the tables on the opposition when you find yourselves down in a series and facing elimination. 

Julien's group enters Game 6 at Madison Square Garden under those exact circumstances, facing a three-games-to-two deficit in their first-round matchup with the New York Rangers, who will surely be going all-out to wrap things up in the Big Apple to avoid returning to Montreal for a do-or-die tilt at the Bell Centre on Monday.

In the midst of his ninth NHL playoff run, defenseman Shea Weber insists overcoming adversity of this magnitude begins with desire and leaving it all out on the ice.

"It's just a matter of who's going to want it more and who's going to bring their best game. Everyone's just got to step it up just a little bit more, give a little bit more, and help the team be successful," insisted Weber, who will suit up for his 65th career postseason game on Saturday night. "I think so far this season [adversity] has brought out the best in us. When our backs are up against the wall, guys seem to respond and hopefully it's no different [in Game 6]. It's the biggest game of our season and everyone's got to be good."

Video: Weber on the Canadiens' ability to overcome adversity

Fellow veteran Tomas Plekanec is certainly in agreement there - and, like Weber, he is adamant that this edition of the Canadiens has all of the tools necessary to not only prolong the series, but to find a way to win it in the end. The Czech centerman fondly recalls being part of a group that accomplished a similar feat back in 2014 when they erased a 3-2 second-round series deficit against the Boston Bruins, before going on to come out on top in Game 7 and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

"I've been in this situation before with the team being down 3-2 in the series and being able to come back, so I really believe we can do the same thing," said Plekanec, who boasts 86 games of postseason experience on his resume, trailing only Andrei Markov for the team lead in that department. "It's nothing unusual in the playoffs. Teams are down 3-2. We really believe in our group. We showed a lot of character, and I'm sure we'll show it [on Saturday]." 

It's safe to say Julien remembers that rally quite well, having been behind the bench at the time for the Canadiens' Original Six rivals. A decade earlier, though, the Blind River, ON native led the Habs to a huge comeback over the Bruins when his club found itself in a serious hole.

"My first full year with the Canadiens [in 2004], we were losing 3-1 to Boston and we managed to win the series with three straight victories. We managed to get over that hump," said Julien, who clearly put his playoff lessons learned to good use in leading the Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011. "In general, winning teams have always battled adversity during the playoffs. Those experiences mean a lot in these types of situations. I've been through a lot in the playoffs in the past. Every time we had success, we had to face adversity."

Video: Julien on his experience when facing a series deficit

Two-time Stanley Cup winner Dwight King would undoubtedly concur, having dealt with the inevitable hardships that come with working to claim hockey's top prize. One thing, in particular, he took away from his stint in Southern California with the Los Angeles Kings was that finally putting an opponent away and sending them packing for the summer is one of the toughest tasks around, which is certainly relevant with his current squad on the brink of elimination. 

"It's tough to close. That's why they make it a best-of-seven," said King, a veteran of 74 playoff games since making his NHL debut 2010-11. "It's hard to get that fourth win, and coming from the opposite side, you just try to throw everything at them. You have nothing to lose. There are no secrets behind that. You just give your best game and hope for the best outcome." 

Julien wouldn't expect anything less from his charges with so much at stake on Saturday night. 

"We're not quitters. That's what I see from this team, a team that doesn't quit and fights until the end," said Julien. "We need to create a Game 7 by playing well in Game 6. That's how you've got to look at it."

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