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Canadiens seek spark to extend series with Rangers

by Sean Farrell

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien expects his friendship with New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault will return to normal soon enough. He just hopes it isn't too soon.

The opposing coaches in the Eastern Conference Final crossed paths prior to the Rangers' 3-2 overtime win Sunday at Madison Square Garden that gave New York a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Television cameras caught Vigneault lowering the passenger window of his car to speak with Therrien, who smiled.

"When I saw him coming I said I made sure to move away, and so what I told him was that I didn't want him to hit me, and he laughed about it," Therrien said Monday after the Canadiens held an optional practice at their suburban practice facility. "I thought it was funny."

There isn't a lot to laugh about in Montreal leading into Game 5 on Tuesday at Bell Centre (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

Ramsay: Subban needs to put team first

For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens, has enlisted the help of former NHL coach Craig Ramsay to break down the action. Ramsay will be checking in throughout the series.

Ramsay played in more than 1,000 NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres before going on to coach the Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers and Atlanta Thrashers. In the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he led the Flyers to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Final. Ramsay most recently was an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers.

Craig Ramsay watched P.K. Subban's end-to-end rushes, his attempts to put the Montreal Canadiens on his back in the first three games of the Eastern Conference Final. Ramsay's final assessment was that Subban was playing selfish hockey.
Asked about Subban's play in Game 4 on Sunday, a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers, Ramsay offered more praise than criticism.
"He was playing more of a team-oriented game," Ramsay told "He just has to slow down and play with his teammates. He's a young man that's just trying to do too much. If he'd slow down a little bit and work more with his teammates, I think he can be so effective."
Ramsay's opinion of Subban is a microcosm of how he feels about the Canadiens as a whole going into the first of what Montreal hopes is three must-win games in the best-of-7 series.
The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 3-1 and will clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final with a win in Game 5 on Tuesday at Bell Centre (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"[The Canadiens] have to be emotionally involved, which isn't hard in Montreal, but they have to be involved in their team game," Ramsay said. "They have to listen to their coach and play the way their coach wants them to play. They have to play as a team, not like a bunch of individuals trying to make that one play and save the day. If they go out as a team, which they have done a lot in these playoffs, they have a great chance of being successful."
Ramsay said he thought the Canadiens did that in the second and third periods of Game 4. He said Subban was better on a night when he played a season-high 33:16, scored a power-play goal, had three shots on goal and blocked five shots.
Subban was caught too deep on a power play in the first period, leading to Carl Hagelin's shorthanded breakaway goal that gave New York a 1-0 lead.
"I think they need his emotion. They need him to be special," Ramsay said of Subban. "It's how he decides to be special. He can pass the puck up the ice quickly, move it up quick, and follow up, and be that fourth guy, who is the most dangerous guy in a rush, versus the puck-carrier, who the vast majority of the time is the least dangerous."
Ramsay said Subban was the most dangerous player on the ice when he scored his game-tying power-play goal 2:00 into the third period. He was put in a shooting position because the Canadiens changed the set-up of their power play by playing low to high and moving defenseman Andrei Markov and Subban.
"Montreal went down and out to the slot, made a play, which held the Rangers down, then they went back out the other side quickly to Markov, who one-timed the puck into the middle of the ice," Ramsay said. "Subban was coming in and just hammered it. Markov made a great play. It was a down-low, up-high play, and you can't cover that.
"What they were doing is having Markov on the left side throwing it to Subban, but he's a righty with the puck coming from the left and it doesn't work."
Ramsay said he doesn't know why the Canadiens didn't use that set-up more in Game 4. They were 1-for-8 on the power play, including a missed opportunity early in overtime.
"Maybe it just fell into place that way, but they changed it that one time and they got Subban the puck in just a shooting position," Ramsay said. "He keeps getting it where he has to handle it first. This one they just got him in the position to shoot."
The key is continuing to get Subban the puck in a shooting position, but Subban has to do his part. He has to use his teammates more, Ramsay said. He said Montreal is better when he does.
"At times it's great to see him go coast-to-coast because the crowd likes it, it's fun, and I like watching it," Ramsay said. "But in order to be the most successful, he could quick-up it, follow it, and let one of those players find him coming into the play. Now a forward has to pick him up, and if he's out against a sloppy forward, he's open, and now he's the most dangerous guy on the ice.
"They need him to be emotional. They need him to be involved. But he has to be involved from the concept of a team player versus a guy trying to win the game himself. Bobby Orr could dominate everything, but is there anybody in the game now that can dominate by himself? The answer is no."

-- Dan Rosen

The Canadiens face the task of having to win three straight games against the Rangers if they hope to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993, when they won their NHL record 24th championship.

"Well, we're not giving up," said Montreal left wing Rene Bourque, one of 13 players to take part in the optional practice. "I think we played our best game of the series [Sunday], so it's just one game at a time. We're at home. We've got to come out good and get this game and take the next one after that, but it starts [Tuesday] and first period and having a good start."

The Rangers are one win away from the Final, the closest they've been since they last made it in 1994, when they defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to win the Cup for the first time in 54 years.

Montreal captain Brian Gionta remains among the members of the 2009-10 Canadiens who overcame a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Presidents' Trophy champion Washington Capitals in the opening round of the playoffs.

"Well, the guys that were here, you remember the situations and you remember the feelings that you had, and at no point in that series did we feel that we were out of it, and the same holds true now," Gionta said. "We believe in the team that's in here and we believe that we can win this series."

The Canadiens swept the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round before overcoming a 3-2 series deficit against the Boston Bruins to win their second-round series in seven games.

Montreal went 8-for-25 on the power play on its way to dispatching the Presidents' Trophy-winning Bruins. P.K. Subban's power-play goal two minutes into the third period Sunday was the Canadiens' only one in eight opportunities in Game 4, including one early in overtime. The Canadiens are 1-for-17 so far against the Rangers.

Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec wasn't concerning himself with what the New York penalty killers were doing to stymie Montreal's attack.

"I don't know, we more look at what's on our side of the power play," Plekanec said. "We need to make those adjustments that are necessary. I think we did a little bit after the second period and it worked, so hopefully we can carry it on to the next game."

Montreal successfully killed each of New York's five power-play opportunities during the two games at Madison Square Garden after allowing four goals in the Rangers' 10 opportunities with the man-advantage in the first two games at Bell Centre, including three in Game 1.

"That's definitely one of the things that can help us to get the momentum a little bit in the game and we definitely can be better at that aspect, whether it's the power play or penalty killing, both," Plekanec said. "If we're going to be good at that, we have a better chance for sure."

Injured goalie Carey Price took to the ice for a solo skate Monday before the optional practice. He sustained a suspected right knee injury in the series opener when Rangers forward Chris Kreider crashed into him with his skates first after driving in on a breakaway.

Price was wearing goalie skates and a brace on the right knee of his training suit as he worked out with a hockey stick and a pair of gloves.

"Well you know he's not going to play, like I said before," Therrien said. "He's not going to play in this series, and just that it's part of the rehab. That's all. It's a great sign."

Goalie Dustin Tokarski is expected to make a fourth straight start after getting the Canadiens to overtime in each game in New York, including a 3-2 win in Game 3 on Thursday.

"He's played extremely well for us," Gionta said. "He gave us a chance to win [Sunday] night, and some of the big saves he made were the reason why we were in that game still."

Montreal will be trying to avoid being closed out and swept in three straight at Bell Centre, where they lost the first two games by a combined score of 10-3.

Therrien, who succeeded Vigneault in his first tenure as the Canadiens' coach in 2000, downplayed the gamesmanship that has ratcheted up the tension during the series. The coaches had opposing perspectives on an incident during a Montreal practice between the games at Madison Square Garden when Therrien had a few Rangers assistant coaches removed from the stands.

"You know what, like I said before the series, and what I said [Sunday], I've got tons of respect for Alain Vigneault but right now we're competing for the same thing," Therrien said. "We want our teams to participate in the Stanley Cup Finals, so he's doing everything that he can to prepare his team and I'm trying to do the same thing. And it's nothing personal. It's nothing personal. We both respect each other and when the series will be over, it's going to be over."

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