BOSTON -- Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty admits that Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara has gotten the better of him in their Eastern Conference Second Round series.
Pacioretty addressed his lack of production Saturday morning ahead of Game 5 at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). In the best-of-7 series that is tied 2-2, the Canadiens are looking for a lift from Pacioretty, who has one assist in four games, nothing at even strength.
"First four games, I'll give [Chara] the edge. He was the better of the two players," Pacioretty said. "But I can just worry about the future. There's three games left, enough for me to prove myself. This is real gut-check time."
Pacioretty hasn't seen much of Chara lately. In Game 3 in Montreal, Chara played evenly against Pacioretty's line with David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher and Thomas Vanek's line with Tomas Plekanec and Michael Bournival. That was the first game in which Canadiens coach Michel Therrien broke up his top line of Pacioretty, Desharnais and Vanek, which was among the hottest units in the NHL entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In Game 4, Chara played the vast majority of his minutes against the Plekanec line, leaving Matt Bartkowski and Johnny Boychuk to eat most of the minutes against Pacioretty.
With Therrien having the final change in Montreal, it's possible Bruins coach Claude Julien decided to allow him to dictate the matchup with Chara. But after successfully managing to get Pacioretty and Desharnais away from Chara with no results in Montreal's 1-0 Game 4 loss, Therrien said Friday some of his offensive players need to adjust to the intensity of the playoffs.
It was a not-so-veiled shot at Pacioretty and Desharnais, and Pacioretty acknowledged that his lack of production is troubling him.
"I've got to find a way to score goals," he said. "I haven't done that. I've been competing. I've got to maybe just relax a bit at times, get some opportunities; maybe I'm a little trigger-happy.
"When you consider this series, our team has had success and we've played a certain way. We've gotten better every game, and I haven't contributed to that success, and I hope to do so."
Therrien hopes he does so as soon as possible.
"Goal scorers put a lot of pressure on themselves," Therrien said. "He's got to make sure he's focusing on the positives and make sure he's got a good attitude. You know eventually this is going to turn around. Hopefully it's [Saturday], because when this guy gets hot he gets really hot. This is what he's been doing throughout the course of the season. We're counting on him, he's a big part of the team's success."
If Pacioretty and Vanek remain separated, Julien will have to decide which line he wants Chara to face for the first time in the series.
On the one hand there is Vanek, a player who has torched the Bruins over his career and is one of the most accomplished goal-scorers in the NHL. On the other you have Pacioretty, who finished fourth in the NHL in the regular season with 39 goals and is the cornerstone of the Canadiens offense.
Here are the projected lineups:
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Brendan Gallagher
Michael Bournival – Tomas Plekanec – Thomas Vanek
Rene Bourque – Lars Eller – Brian Gionta
Travis Moen – Daniel Briere – Dale Weise
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov – Alexei Emelin
Francis Bouillon – Mike Weaver
Scratched: Douglas Murray, Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu, Brandon Prust, George Parros, Ryan White
Injured: Alex Galchenyuk (lower body)
Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Jarome Iginla
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Reilly Smith
Matt Fraser – Carl Soderberg – Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille – Gregory Campbell – Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara – Dougie Hamilton
Matt Bartkowski – Johnny Boychuk
Torey Krug – Kevan Miller
Scratched: Jordan Caron, Andrej Meszaros, Corey Potter
Injured: Chris Kelly (back), Dennis Seidenberg (ACL/MCL), Adam McQuaid (ankle)