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Canadiens elevate play when facing elimination

by Sean Farrell / NHL.com

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens are at their best with their backs against the wall.

Montreal has won five of its past six Stanley Cup Playoff games when facing elimination. The Canadiens, who trail their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2, will face elimination again in Game 6 at Amalie Arena on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"These are the kind of games you dream of being in as a kid," Montreal center Lars Eller said via a conference call from Tampa on Sunday.

Tuesday will be the first time the Canadiens have played the sixth game of a best-of-7 series after trailing 3-0.

Montreal trailed the Boston Bruins 3-2 in the second round last season before winning two elimination games in a row to eliminate the Bruins in seven games.

"I think for all the guys that were here then it was probably one of the most emotional and personally most satisfying series to come out of and win," Eller said. "It was special for all of us who were here and you just take that experience with you into this series too, which has become a very emotional series as well and will be, I'm sure, Tuesday night as well. We've been down 3-2 before against very good teams and been able to turn it around; it certainly cannot hurt you."

The Canadiens faced elimination twice in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers; Montreal won 7-4 in Game 5 before losing 1-0 in Game 6.

Eller said the Canadiens' resolve to fight back in a series is built on experience.

"When you've been in that situation before and once you get that feeling of being successful in those situations and you get familiar with it, it helps you going forward," Eller said. "We're confident in ourselves but most of all because the way we've been playing, especially 5-on-5, I think even though we're down 3-2 we've played probably better hockey in this series than we did in the previous [series] so the first three games maybe the results didn't exactly reflect the way we were playing. I think that's something that gave us a lot of confidence within the room."

The Lightning scored the winning goal in Game 3 with less than two seconds remaining in the third period to take a 3-0 series lead.

"We thought we played well enough to win two out of the first three games so our mindset never changed," Montreal right wing Devante Smith-Pelly said. "We continued to push and just figured that eventually we'll get a bounce or two and turn it around, so we still have some work to do but we're happy with the way we've been playing."

The Canadiens ended an eight-game losing streak against Tampa Bay with a 6-2 win in Game 4 to stave off elimination once. A 2-1 win in Game 5 at Bell Centre kept Montreal's Stanley Cup hopes alive for a few more days, at least.

"Momentum, it's confidence," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "You have to work really, really hard to get momentum and I think our players, our team, I like the commitment from everyone. So this is something that as a coach I'm proud about my players. They're committed to their team, they're committed to their teammates and we've got our backs against the wall again this year. We're reacting the right way. We're reacting with confidence that we're capable to accomplish what we're supposed to do every game, and this is what they did in a tough position in Game 4, and in another tougher position in Game 5, and I know our team is going to be well prepared and the only thing we're looking for is to force Game 7 in Montreal."

Therrien said that the Canadiens' focus is on making that happen by winning Tuesday.

"The energy in the building was amazing [Saturday] night and we could only imagine what it would be like in a Game 7, but at the same time we're not looking ahead of Game 6," Smith-Pelly said. "We still have a job to do in Tampa."

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