WASHINGTON – In hockey as in life, things can change in the blink of an eye.
For the Canadiens, who go in search of a season-high fifth consecutive victory on Friday afternoon against the Capitals at the Verizon Center, that fact sustained them in recent weeks when they struggled to light the lamp and ultimately best the opposition.
Prior to amassing four straight wins against the likes of Minnesota, Washington, Pittsburgh and Buffalo over the last nine days, Michel Therrien’s contingent had won just two of their previous eight tilts. Needless to say, things have since turned around for the better and the Canadiens are on a serious upswing going into their third set of back-to-back games in as many weekends.
Daniel Briere knows the emotional highs and lows that come with winning and losing, and he believes the Canadiens have shown tremendous character in righting the ship after a painstakingly tough stretch of games.
“That’s the beauty of hockey. Things can change quickly. You always have a chance to redeem yourself and to come back strong. That’s what’s fun about it. We really took the bull by the horns during the last few games with big wins,” underlined Briere, who has four goals and seven points in 15 games this season. “Wins over Minnesota, Washington in Washington, Pittsburgh. Those are three good teams, and then we managed to avoid the trap game against the Sabres. It’s never easy to face a team that’s struggling after picking up big wins like we did. It’s easier sometimes to take things lightly, but we came back strong. It’s a good sign. I really like the character of our team.”
So does Brendan Gallagher, who is quick to point out that within the locker room the Habs believe they boast the ingredients necessary to overcome trying times and find ways to string wins together on a consistent basis.
“We never lost confidence in the group of guys that we have in here. We’re a confident bunch,” stressed Gallagher, who sits tied alongside Tomas Plekanec with 15 points on the year. “We know that when we’re playing the right way and doing the right things, we’re a very good team. When we’re not, we’re not a very good team. It was just a matter of getting back to what we do well, and doing the things that we feel give us the best chance to win.”
One of those things in particular involves taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them by their opponents and making them pay for their mistakes. On Wednesday night in Buffalo, the Canadiens did just that, tallying two power play goals in an all-important victory that kept their momentum swing going with another critical tilt in the District of Columbia on the horizon.
“It’s just important to realize what we’re doing well right now and continue to do those things,” offered Gallagher. “We’ve just been simplifying our game with percentage plays and doing what we do well, and when we do those things, we feel we give ourselves a good chance to win every night.”
Given the Canadiens’ recent success, it came as no surprise that the Habs bench boss hadn’t yet decided whether to make any lineup changes heading into the squad’s 26th game of the season following Thursday’s practice.
Therrien did, however, confirm that Peter Budaj would get the call against the Capitals on Friday night after backstopping the bleu-blanc-rouge to a 3-2 victory at the Verizon Center just one week ago.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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