MONTREAL – Despite a late rally, the Habs weren’t able to fend off a season sweep by the Lightning.
After sweeping Tampa in the first round of last year’s playoffs, the Canadiens have had a hard time handling the Lightning in the 2014-15 regular season. Armed with the NHL’s most potent offense, the Bolts won all five games against the Habs this year, outscoring Montreal 20-8 in the process. Following Monday’s 5-3 loss to close out the season series, Max Pacioretty was less concerned with what the Lightning did well and more concerned with what his own team didn’t.
“They’re a hard working team. They’re well-coached, everyone has bought into that system and that’s why they have success. We’re the same way when we play well,” began Pacioretty, who scored his 37th
goal of the season with a shorthanded marker in the second period. “They’ll have their off games just like anyone else, but it seems like they’ve caught us on a lot of our off nights. We did show what we had in the third, but we need to do that for 60 minutes. It’s not enough to just show up for one period.”
Spotting the Lighting a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes while being outshot by a lopsided 31-13 margin, the Canadiens came out firing in the final 20, with Jeff Petry scoring his first as a Hab with a wrister from the point just 23 seconds into the final frame.
“Tonight we kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” admitted Petry, who finished with a plus-1 differential and earned third star honors. “We gave them a lot, whether it was our execution or mental breaks. It was definitely not the start in the first two periods that we wanted.
“Heading into the third, we knew what we needed to do. We could all look at ourselves in the room and know we didn’t have our game in the first two periods,” continued the 27-year-old blue-liner, whose team outshot the Lighting 15-13 in the third period. “A couple of guys spoke up and just said, ‘Those two periods are behind us and we need to fight back.’”
Clawing back into the game off Petry’s early goal, the Canadiens continued to make a push for the equalizer even after Vladislav Namestnikov lit the lamp for a second time in the night. P.K. Subban closed the gap with one of his trademark one-timers from the point, but the Habs weren’t able to cap off the comeback.
Having already punched their ticket to the postseason on Saturday against the Panthers, the Habs are guaranteed to be playing hockey beyond their season finale against the Leafs on April 11. Instead of using the last two weeks to clinch a berth, Pacioretty is looking forward to spending the time preparing for the playoff-opening puck drop.
“In the playoffs we can’t afford to give teams breaks because they’ll make you pay,” he said. “We have five games to get things ready for the playoffs. Obviously they had our number this season. We don’t play them again in the regular season, but if we see them in the playoffs, we know what we have to do to be better.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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