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Canadiens could use lift from Galchenyuk in Game 2

by Arpon Basu / NHL.com

BROSSARD, Quebec -- When Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin held a press conference prior to the start of their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, he was asked about third-year forward Alex Galchenyuk.

Bergevin could have chosen many ways to respond, and he said Galchenyuk had reached a stage in his career, albeit at the age of 21, when he should be making more of an impact for the Canadiens.

"It's time," Bergevin conceded.

There would be no better time for Galchenyuk to break out than right now.

The Canadiens have scored four non-empty net goals in their past four games, including one in a 2-1 double-overtime loss to the Lightning in Game 1 on Friday, and that will need to change starting in Game 2 on Sunday at Bell Centre (6 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The goal in Game 1 was a bit of a gift, with Max Pacioretty's long shot hitting the glove of Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, bouncing out and rolling into the net.

Galchenyuk has scored two goals in his past 25 games, including one in seven games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Ottawa Senators).

"To be honest I didn't hear it. Someone told me a little later," Galchenyuk said Saturday of Bergevin's pre-series comments. "I know I can go out there and try to help the team win as much as I can. The bounces don't go your way sometimes. It's a team sport. We're all battling. We're all trying to bring our game to the next level and that's what I'm trying to do. You know it's going to come to you if you keep working, and that's the way it is right now."

It would be unfair to heap the Canadiens' offensive struggles on one player, especially one so young, and Galchenyuk is hardly the only player struggling to score. No Canadiens forward has more than three points in the playoffs, and two have scored more than one goal: Pacioretty (3, one empty net) and Dale Weise (2).

"First period we had two posts," center Tomas Plekanec said of Game 1. "If we would have played with the lead -- I know it's ifs and buts -- there's nothing you can change about shooting the puck an inch beside the post. We had traffic, we had chances. Our game was good overall."

Coach Michel Therrien had difficulty finding fault in the Canadiens' game, and agreed with Plekanec that they need a bounce or two to go their way. The power play, 1-for-23 in the playoffs, had one of those shots off the goal post.

"There's a question of hockey karma also," he said. "You need breaks. We hit two posts, so we're talking about an inch. If it's one inch towards the inside, our offense is outstanding. It's perception. But we don't live in perception, we live in reality. We created good scoring chances, and if we keep working with the same determination we'll get back on track."

The Canadiens generated 31 scoring chances at 5-on-5, according to war-on-ice.com, which was more than their two previous games combined. So there are encouraging signs.

On Friday, the spotlight on the inability to score shone brightest on Galchenyuk because he was called for three penalties and was shifted to the fourth line with Torrey Mitchell and Devante Smith-Pelly.

Over a 25-game slump, Galchenyuk has generated 48 shots on goal, an average of 1.92 per game. In the 62 previous regular-season games, Galchenyuk had 2.09 shots on goal per game. So there's been a dip, but it's hardly been drastic.

"For me, it's just something I've just got to stay focused and go out there and try to play my game and do the best I can on the ice out there and be prepared to go," Galchenyuk said. "Go out there, have fun, compete and create something."

During the 2009 playoffs, Plekanec compared his play to a little girl when he went without a point in three games of a first-round series sweep by the Boston Bruins. He was scratched for Game 2 of the series, but Therrien affirmed he has no intention of doing the same with Galchenyuk.

"We're going to continue working with Alex, that's how we see it," Therrien said. "He's a little guy with potential. He wants to do well for his team, so it's not one of my priorities to take him out of the lineup. We'll continue to work with him."

Plekanec knows what Galchenyuk is going through and said he took time to talk to him at practice Saturday, to remind him not to read what anyone is writing or watch what anyone is saying on television. The most important battle Galchenyuk needs to fight right now, Plekanec said, is between his ears.

"Eighty percent of the game today is in the head," Plekanec said. "It's more about confidence. He's thinking too much. You can see [Saturday] in practice, we had 2-on-1s and 3-on-1s, and he's thinking too much. It's just takes one play and things will click for him and he'll be helping our team win."

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