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Defense alone won't win series for Canadiens

by Corey Masisak /
BROSSARD, Que. -- The Montreal Canadiens have proven to be comfortable and successful playing a patient, defensive-minded style during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the lack of offense is a concern as a critical Game 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins looms Thursday (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).

While the Canadiens upset the Washington Capitals and earned a split of the first two games of this series in Pittsburgh, Montreal has scored only 18 goals in the past eight games, and eight in the past four contests.

"Ultimately we've got to find a way to score," Brian Gionta said after his team was shut out Tuesday in Game 3 at Bell Centre. "This time of year, it is big. We've got to find ways to get it past (Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury). We had some really good opportunities and he made some big saves. In the end it doesn't matter how you win -- you just have to get the win. We have to draw off some of the positive things we did, but we definitely need to do better."

"Ultimately we've got to find a way to score. This time of year, it is big. We've got to find ways to get it past (Fleury). We had some really good opportunities and he made some big saves."
-- Brian Gionta

Fleury stopped all 18 shots he faced in Game 3. A few of them were great saves, including three fabulous chances in the third period, but the Canadiens have not been getting a lot of shots on the goaltender of late.

Montreal has 108 shots in the last five games -- fewer than 22 per game -- but that number is inflated by the 31 the Canadiens had in a 6-3 loss in Game 1 against Pittsburgh. Again, part of the shot totals is a product of the way Montreal wants to play. The Canadiens are comfortable playing without the puck so long as they are sound in their own end and limit the Penguins' quality chances.

Pittsburgh turned to that strategy against Montreal in Game 3, deploying a similarly cautious attack. The Canadiens were unable to muster enough offense to combat it.

"When you're playing in a game like that, you don't want to give up too much," Hal Gill said. "That said, you have to be able to capitalize on every little thing. We can be better at that. We do some things to create more chances.

"I think they changed their game a bit and sat back more, maybe because they were on the road, but we've got to be able to push the pace a little more."

One problem for Montreal not only is the lack of secondary scoring, but the lack of any scoring from players not named Michael Cammalleri. He leads the Canadiens with 8 goals, including seven in the past seven games.

Beyond Cammalleri, the scoring is bleak. Brian Gionta has 4 goals, including two in this series. Tomas Plekanec has 4 goals, but only one in the past seven games, and it was an empty-netter.

Andrei Kostitsyn had 3 goals and an assist in Game 2 against Washington -- and has 2 assists in the other nine games while wandering in and out of coach Jacques Martin's doghouse. The third- and fourth-liners have combined for 4 goals and an assist in 10 games -- and that's counting Travis Moen, who has spent a lot of time as a top-six skater of late.

"Everyone's playing hard. You can't just ask for secondary scoring," Gill said. "It has got to come with driving the net and causing traffic. Those are things we are trying to do."

Added Scott Gomez: "It is one of those things where everyone is giving their effort. I know some guys aren't scoring, but they're providing a lot. They're providing a lot of energy. (Dominic) Moore, (Tom) Pyatt and (Maxim Lapierre) didn't score last night, but the energy they brought to the building and to the bench -- they had some big shifts and you need that."

For as much as Montreal was expected to rely on its power play, the Canadiens haven't been terrible at even strength (better than Chicago and Boston among teams remaining, actually). They have allowed only three goals at even strength in this series (not counting the empty-netter in Game 3).

Finding more ways to score in any situation could be the key for the Canadiens to keep pace with the Penguins, who have proven able to play a variety of different styles and the ability to adapt as needed.

"It doesn't matter at this point as long as you get the wins," Gomez said. "We're not going to say we need this guy or that guy -- we need everybody and that's just the way it is."

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