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The fine line

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
MONTREAL – The Canadiens stack up well against the league’s top offense, but there’s still work left to be done before April.


Averaging 3.25 goals per game – by far the most in the NHL – the Lightning were nevertheless held to just one in Montreal. The only problem was that it turned out to be the difference.

“All it takes is one shot to change a game. You could see that at the end they got a good bounce and ultimately that was the difference in the hockey game,” conceded P.K. Subban who had 24:34 of ice time on Tuesday.

One shot, and two hot goalies, as both Tampa and Montreal were buoyed by world-class performances between the pipes by the game’s second and first stars, respectively. For a while it even looked like Carey Price might steal one again for the Habs, riding a 160-plus minute shutout streak on home ice into overtime before the team’s fortunes went awry on a fluke play.

“They got a puck towards the net and got a lucky bounce,” described Price, who filed a 35-save effort against the Bolts. “We had a guy trying to do his job up front and it was just a tough break, but you kind of figured towards the end of that’s how it was going to finish.”

After being outscored 11-3 by the Lightning in the teams’ previous two meetings, Tuesday’s tight-checking, playoff-type outing still managed to illustrate how far the first-place Habs have come since the start of the season, despite the setback.

“Carey played well and did exactly what we needed him to do. He made some big saves and gave us an opportunity to win the game, which is all any team can ask for from their goaltender,” added Subban. “You knew that it was going to come down to a bounce one way or the other, and tonight they got it. When it goes off one of your own players into the net, it’s a tough pill to swallow, but there are a lot of positives to take away from this game.”

The main positive, aside from Price’s continued exploits in goal had to be the play of the defense in front of him, which blocked 32 shots on the night, including 15 from rearguards Andrei Markov, Sergei Gonchar, and Jeff Petry alone. But now it’s time for the offense to pitch in.

“It’s always the same story with Carey. He was amazing and deserves to be recognized for his repeat performances like that, but at the end of the day it doesn’t make us feel good as his teammates to leave him out to dry that much,” admitted Max Pacioretty, who was held to a single shot on goal. “You can’t win a game if you don’t score goals, so we’ve got to find a way to put pucks in the net.”

Indeed, the Canadiens have tallied just six goals in the five games since last Monday’s NHL trade deadline, a stat which does not sit well in the dressing room.

“Sometimes your best defense is offense, and it’s obviously something that we need to continue working at with the 15 games we’ve got left, making sure we’re putting more pucks on net,” concluded Subban, who now prepares for the visiting Senators on Thursday before hitting the road again on Saturday. “Luckily, we’ll have another opportunity to prove something when we head to Tampa in a couple of days.”

Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com

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