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Canadiens X-factor Markov important to power play

by Sean Farrell / NHL.com

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Andrei Markov got off on the wrong foot in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs when he scored the first goal of the Montreal Canadiens' Eastern Conference First Round series against the Ottawa Senators.

The defenseman's own-goal on Carey Price in Game 1 of Montreal's six-game series win set the tone for the 36-year-old Russian's play against Ottawa.

"Yeah, I know I have to be better," Markov said after practice Wednesday. "Those things happen and there's no question that I have to be better and I will try to be better next series, and try to look forward and move forward."

Markov, who had one assist against Ottawa, is a key component of Montreal's power play, which was completely ineffective during the first round with one goal in 20 opportunities.

After playing with regular defense partner P.K. Subban on the Canadiens' first power-play unit against the Senators, Markov was paired with Tom Gilbert on the second unit at practice Thursday when Montreal prepared for Game 1 of ithe Eastern Conference Second Round against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Bell Centre on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Left wing Max Pacioretty said Markov makes important contributions even when he's at less than his best.

"Andrei is probably the most important skater on this team, and what I mean by that is he makes everything go," Pacioretty said. "He makes the power play go, even if he's not touching the puck. He's just the smartest player I've ever played with, and I think he played well. Obviously he's hard on himself, but I think going forward he probably has more."

Rookie defenseman Greg Pateryn said he has learned something from Markov every day.

"He's an unbelievable player," Pateryn said. "He can definitely change the momentum of a series with just his play alone. He just kind of controls the game out there. He's just so poised, he's never running around, but he makes hits when he needs to and his passing is unbelievable. And just the way he sees the ice, and opponents know that too, but he does a good job of countering that as well."

Subban, who won the Norris Trophy in 2012-13 and was named a finalist Monday for the second time, said Markov has the ability to change a game.

"He's so dynamic and he sees the ice so well that he can find guys out there, and the way he moves the puck out of the zone, the plays that he makes, the poise that he exudes on the ice, it kind of calms everything down and he can make some great plays," Subban said.

Subban also stood up for his defense partner's contributions to the Canadiens' first-round win.

"We've seen it for a long time now, so I don't think it's any secret what he can do out there, but at the same token we need to support each other," Subban said. "We can't expect Carey to make 70 saves every night, we can't expect [Pacioretty] to score a hat trick every night, we can't expect [Markov] to play 35 minutes every night and be at his best for all 35 minutes; I mean, that's not fair. Everybody's got to step up and elevate their game, so it's really a group thing right now as we continue to look forward to [Friday] night as we want to play our best game of the season."

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