NEWARK – The Habs leave Newark with something to build on as they head into their final two games of the season.
While the Canadiens certainly gave themselves a building block to work with on Tuesday night in Newark after coming close to completing the comeback against the Devils, a slow first period was once again at the root of the problem the Habs have been dealing with in the final stage of the season.
“We were missing a lot of intensity, and when we start games like that, we get ourselves into trouble,” pointed out Michel Therrien, following his team’s 3-2 loss to the Devils in New Jersey. “The important thing I take away from this is that we didn’t throw in the towel. To have to comeback against a team like the Devils that doesn’t give up a lot of shots isn’t an easy task.”
Having built a reputation early in the season for getting off to strong starts, the Habs have gotten away from doing just that in recent games and have instead been tasked with vying for comebacks because of it.
“The second part of the game was much better and I think we got some of the intensity back in our game,” continued Therrien, of the Habs falling behind 3-0 in the first half of the game before potting two goals of their own to pull within one of the Devils. “The Xs and Os are only 50% of hockey. After that it’s all about intensity on the ice and effort that counts. You have to go out there ready to work, and we waited until the second half of the game to really do that.”
With two games left to get back on track before the puck drops on the 2012-13 NHL playoffs, Rene Bourque was quick to mention that the team already knows exactly what made them one of the most successful squads in the league for the majority of the season – it’s just a matter of getting back to executing it.
“We need to be more physical, get pucks deep and hit more. We’ve been getting out-hit every game and I think that’s a big part of the problem,” said Bourque, who along with the rest of his teammates will need to get back to their bruising game when they face the team with the third most hits in the league on Thursday in the Jets. “We have to want that puck and right now we’re not battling on the forecheck like we were before.
“It’s been our last five or six now that we’ve come out flat and gone down early,” added the 31-year-old winger, who finished his night with a plus-1 after assisting on Lars Eller’s second period goal. “I thought we did a little better in the second and made a game out of it, but we just didn’t get enough of a push in the third period.”
Turning in another strong performance for his team Tuesday night, Lars Eller took glass-half-full approach following his team’s match in Newark, while clearly still holding the Habs’ “No Excuses” mantra very much to heart.
“I think we showed some encouraging signs in the third period – the kinds of things that we were doing well in the first 40 games of the season,” shared Eller, who gave the Canadiens a shot of life, scoring with only 40 seconds left in the second period. “We didn’t get the win we were looking for tonight, but as long as we keep working, we know we’ll get the results we want to be getting. On the other hand, in terms of our 60 minute effort tonight, it wasn’t where it needed to be to walk away with two points.
“There are so many things we need to be doing better right now,” he finished. “But it needs to start with every individual getting back to playing their best.”Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com
Game Highlights: Canadiens-Devils
The Numbers Game – April 23, 2013