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Canadiens' Pacioretty uses tough game as motivation

by Arpon Basu

BROSSARD, Quebec -- There are few stars in the NHL who can be as hard on themselves as Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty.

Down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series entering Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers on Tuesday at Bell Centre (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), Pacioretty feels he has a lot to make up for.

Whether that's true or it's just something Pacioretty has convinced himself is true, it's probably a good sign for the Canadiens.

Pacioretty did not register a single shot on goal in a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 4 on Sunday, and he is eager to make amends in front of his home fans Tuesday.

"I don't feel good about my game last game, but that's the way it goes. It happens all the time," Pacioretty said after the morning skate. "Good players find a way to overcome a bad game like that, and I've got to do that [Tuesday]."

Pacioretty scored 39 goals in the regular season to finish fourth in the NHL, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs have been a frustrating time for the American forward who grew up a Rangers fan outside New York in New Canaan, Conn.

He had one goal and one assist through the first eight games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and his lack of production became a major talking point in the Montreal media even though coach Michel Therrien kept telling him he was playing well.

As a younger player, Pacioretty sometimes allowed that external criticism to get to him, especially in a city where the hockey coverage is almost impossible to avoid.

"It's tough to have a short memory in this city," Pacioretty said. "Over the years I've gotten better and better at it. But there's been times in these playoffs when I go four games without scoring a goal, I feel like I'm the worst player ever. But that just comes with playing in a big market, and you use it as motivation and you use it to get ready for the next game.

"That's where you've got to trust your skills. My first couple of years, you get stuck in that hole where you feel like you're a terrible player and you never come out of it. But I feel I've gotten better and better at it over the years, and hopefully I can do that now."

When told Pacioretty criticized his own performance in Game 4, Therrien was not eager to agree with him, mentioning that the Canadiens will need the contributions of everyone if they hope to force a Game 6 in New York on Thursday.

Though that is true, getting some offense from Pacioretty would help solve the Canadiens' biggest problem thus far in the series, which has been their total of seven regulation-time goals in four games. Pacioretty knows that, but he refuses to enter the game thinking he has to be the difference-maker. It's something the 25-year-old has learned with experience and something he hopes to apply in Game 5.

"When I'm thinking that I have to score a goal tonight to win the game for the team, that's when I tend to overthink things and not play my game," he said. "When I worry about doing the right things each shift, that's when I have success.

"I like to turn off my brain and go out there and react."

Pacioretty's production since opening the playoffs with two points in eight games has been good, with three goals and three assists in his past seven games. But none of those games were as big as the one he will play Tuesday.

"You've got to take responsibility for when you don't play your best, and obviously I didn't," Pacioretty said. "But I'm confident I'll come back [Tuesday] and put up a good one."

Here are the projected lineups, if injured Rangers forward Derek Stepan plays:


Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Martin St. Louis

Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Brian Boyle - Dominic Moore - Derek Dorsett

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Anton Stralman

John Moore - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Suspended: Daniel Carcillo

Scratched: Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg, Justin Falk, Raphael Diaz

Injured: J.T. Miller (upper body)


Max PaciorettyDavid DesharnaisBrendan Gallagher

Alex GalchenyukTomas PlekanecBrian Gionta

Rene BourqueDaniel BriereThomas Vanek

Michael BournivalLars EllerDale Weise

Josh GorgesP.K. Subban

Andrei MarkovAlexei Emelin

Francis BouillonMike Weaver

Dustin Tokarski

Peter Budaj

Suspended: Brandon Prust

Scratched: Douglas Murray, George Parros, Jarred Tinordi, Travis Moen, Nathan Beaulieu, Ryan White

Injured: Carey Price (knee)

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