A 3-2 loss in overtime to the Ottawa Senators leaves the Canadiens down 3-1 in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series, with Game 5 set for Thursday in Montreal (7 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, RDS).
It was a game the Canadiens appeared to have in the bag -- they led 2-0 with less than half of the third period to go, only to see the Senators rally to force overtime before Kyle Turris' goal 2:32 into the extra period moved the seventh-seeded Senators within one victory of ousting the second-seeded Canadiens.
"That's hockey," defenseman Josh Gorges said. "We got the game stolen from us. We're down 3-1, no matter which way we want to explain it. It doesn't matter. We don't have a choice but to come out swinging."
The Canadiens insisted prior to Tuesday night that they needed to return to their style of play while maintaining discipline in the process. After a fight-filled 6-1 loss in Game 3, Montreal knew it couldn't allow Ottawa to fire up its intensity, and the Canadiens were largely successful in achieving that goal for more than two periods. The Canadiens kept the Senators on the perimeter, stifling any offensive momentum, and their penalty kill allowed Ottawa one shot in three power-play opportunities.
But Mika Zibanejad's goal halfway through the third lit the fuse, and Cory Conacher's tap-in with 22.6 seconds left in regulation forced overtime. Ottawa got to face a cold goaltender in overtime; Peter Budaj took over after Carey Price left the game at the end of the third period with a lower-body injury.
"I don't know if we lost [Price] for a while, but I feel bad for Peter," Jeff Halpern said. "I don't think he saw [Turris'] goal."
There were two late icing calls in the third that appeared to frustrate the Canadiens, but they knew they could not use the officials' decision as an excuse.
"That's not the reason why we lost," Gorges said. "They make their calls, and we have to live by it. We were probably too much on our heels in the third period. We tried to protect a lead instead of go out and play. We sat and we were all right – we did some good things, so when we needed to do, guys were blocking shots, we battled hard and got pucks in when we needed to. Then it's just unfortunate that we allowed them to come into the zone, and then it was all scramble play.
"It's hard to say we were the better team because we ended up on the wrong side of things. This game is made on wins and losses alone. Nothing else matters."
The Canadiens will have the benefit of being back in their own building for a potential elimination game, and Gorges insists that the team will not go down without a battle.
"We've got to fight for our lives," Gorges said. "None of us want to go home; none of us are done playing. We've got a lot of pride in this room. Now, it's do or die. You've got to have that mentality: Let's throw everything we've got at them, because there's no tomorrow. We've got to play that way."
Added Halpern: "It's a pretty big game. It's playoff hockey in Montreal. I imagine we're going to come out, wanting [a win] worse than ever before."