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Canadiens know they have to improve in Game 4

by Arpon Basu

NEW YORK -- The Montreal Canadiens might have won Game 3, but they know they need to play more like they did in Game 2 if they want to tie the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers.

The Canadiens, down 2-1 in the best-of-7 series, will attempt to do just that in Game 4 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"There is always room for improvement," center Lars Eller said at the team's hotel Friday. "I'd say the good thing is we came out of there with a win, and we have to be a lot better. We have to improve. We have to be better. It almost seems like the roles were reversed from Game 2 to 3, and the Rangers probably had a lot more scoring chances in Game 3 than we had.

"But at the same time, goal 2 and 3 is a good example of us winning battles in front of the net and getting those ugly goals. We had the chances in Game 2, but we didn't win the battles in front of the net, both in front of our net. Yesterday in front of [goaltender Henrik] Lundqvist's net, we were able to win those battles. I think that made the difference [Thursday]."

Facing a must-win situation, the Canadiens came out flat in their 3-2 overtime win in Game 3 on Thursday, getting outshot 14-4 in the first period and leaving the ice trailing 1-0. Were it not for rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski, the series essentially might have been over in those opening 20 minutes.

"We're going to need a better start," Canadiens center David Desharnais said. "We started the game on our heels a bit and the goalie allowed us to stay in the game. We were fighting for our lives, and it gave us confidence to see our goalie play like that."

The Canadiens would rather not rely on their goaltender as much in Game 4 and go back to pressuring Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist the way they did in Game 2, when Lundqvist made 40 saves to steal a 3-1 win for New York in much the same way Tokarski stole a victory in Game 3.

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien shuffled three of his four forward lines for Game 3, and it didn't quite work out. He had to switch up his new combinations again over the course of the game and one of them paid off, with Rene Bourque, Daniel Briere and Thomas Vanek collaborating to get Montreal's second goal of the game late in the third period.

But Therrien admitted he will need to make further adjustments ahead of Game 4.

"We started with an idea and we had to make adjustments over the course of the game," he said. "When we make adjustments, it's because we want to give ourselves a chance to win. The players know that. They're never personal decisions, they're for the good of the team."

One line Therrien likely won't touch is the unit of Desharnais, Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher. The line combined for nine of the Canadiens' 25 shots on goal in Game 3 and has 28 of Montreal's 88 shots on goal in the series.

Pacioretty has played a big role in that, but Gallagher has given the Rangers fits with his tenacious style of play through three games.

"He plays like a big guy," Desharnais said. "He goes to the net, he wins 1-on-1 battles, he's in front of the goalie, he chirps guys, he's in their head. I've been playing with him a lot, and he's great out there. He goes 100 percent, you know what to expect from him.

"He's not afraid. He's not afraid to go anywhere. He's not afraid to go in the corners, he's not afraid to get hit, he's not afraid to go to the net. When you go to those dirty areas, you get rewarded."

If some of that were to rub off on Gallagher's teammates, the Canadiens would be much better off.

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