TAMPA – Third periods haven’t been easy on the Habs this season.
After getting off to a good start and heading into the second intermission with a 3-2 lead, the final frame proved to be the Canadiens’ Achilles heel once again. Seeing their opponent come from behind to win may be an all too familiar scene for the Habs this season, but head coach Randy Cunneyworth didn’t feel the same sense of déjà vu following Thursday night’s loss.
“It’s disappointing with the lead we had and to relinquish that in the way we did kind of hurts, but we did a lot of good things out there to get the lead in the first place,” explained Cunneyworth. “Then we got away from it a little there and that’s what happens. I still give the guys credit; we worked awfully hard but they got some fortunate bounces.”
One of those bounces came at the end of the second period with a questionable call to give former Hab J.T. Wyman his first career NHL goal. The other resulted in the tying goal after a Marc-Andre Bergeron lob appeared to be tipped in with a high stick.
“No matter how good or bad a call it is, you can’t let it affect you,” stressed Erik Cole, who scored his team-leading 15th goal of the campaign in the second period. “I thought we came out with a couple of good shifts at the start of the third. When we gave up the goal there it took a bit of the wind out of our sails. We gave them a little bit of life but I thought we were still doing some good things. I thought Davey’s line created a lot of good things.”
Chipping in with his seventh multi-point game of the season, David Desharnais hit a new career high by bringing his season total to 23 points in 38 games. Then, with Tampa defenseman Bruno Gervais off for delay of game in the final minute and Carey Price pulled for the extra attacker, Desharnais came within inches of getting his second goal of the night.
“I don’t think we played a bad game,” shared the 25-year-old center. “We worked hard and we were right there. We outshot them and we had them against the ropes. They had one lucky goal, one that was kind of lobbed in and then a nice one in the third. One thing’s for sure; we’ve definitely been paying for our mistakes this year.”
While Cunneyworth doesn’t think his troops took their feet off the gas in the third period, he would still prefer to see them kick it up another notch to close out the game.
“When you throw the puck to the net from everywhere with people going to the net, as we’ve talked about, good things can happen,” he explained. “We did that for some portions of the game and we have to continue to do that a lot more and be more consistent throughout the night and they’ll go our way.
“[Mathieu Garon] was very good. We threw a lot of pucks at him and we battled hard to get position but it was a little too late at that point,” added Cunneyworth. “We need to put that kind of press on earlier.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
The Numbers Game - Dec. 29, 2011