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Scoring woes more pressing than goaltender choice for desperate Habs

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MONTREAL - Coach Guy Carbonneau doesn't expect to be hauled off by the men in white coats just for insisting his fading Montreal Canadiens can still win their playoff series with the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I like our chances," Carbonneau said Thursday on a conference call. With their 4-2 win on Wednesday night in Philadelphia, the sixth-seeded Flyers lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and can advance to the Eastern Conference final with a victory in Game 5 on Saturday night at the Bell Centre (7 p.m. ET).

The Canadiens have now lost three games in a row, matching their season high, despite outplaying the Flyers for long stretches and outshooting them 142-96 overall in the series.

And the task is to beat the Flyers three times in a four-night span - Saturday at home, Sunday in Philadelphia and Tuesday back at the Bell Centre.

"I think we're playing well," Carbonneau insisted. "We're down 3-1, so we can play better.

"But a couple of weeks ago, we were up 3-1 and Boston took it to a seventh game, so it can be done. I'm not crazy, I'm realistic. As a coach, I've got to be optimistic. I wouldn't be this optimistic if we were playing bad."

Debate raged after Carbonneau named backup Jaroslav Halak as the starting goaltender for Game 4, but the result was the same - a loss despite outshooting the Flyers by a wide margin.

Carbonneau said he has decided which of Halak or Carey Price would start on Saturday night, but wouldn't divulge that information just yet.

But he insisted that, contrary to some reports, Price's glove hand is not injured.

"Carey Price is not hurt," he said. "His finger, his hand, his shoulder, his knee - he has no injuries.

"Right now, his confidence is hurt a little. I have made my decision, but I haven't had a chance to talk to Carey or Jaro yet and I want them to be the first to know."

The team and the coaches were given the day off Thursday, and Carbonneau used his free time to get in a round of golf rather than fret about possible elimination from the playoffs.

The Canadiens hope to duplicate a feat they first performed in 2004, with Claude Julien as head coach, when they came back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Boston Bruins in the opening round. Eight players remain from that team.

And the Flyers were up 3-1 on Washington in their first-round series this year but the Capitals came back to force a decisive Game 7 before Joffrey Lupul put Philadelphia through with an overtime winner.

Halak proved no better or worse than Price had been in the first three games, allowing three goals (the fourth was into an empty net) on 26 shots, the first of them a weak one to the inside post by R.J. Umberger, who turns 26 on Saturday.

But bigger questions remain for a Montreal team whose attack has run dry.

The Canadiens led the NHL this season with 262 goals, but they scored only 10 goals in the opening four games against the Flyers, six of them in the third period while battling to get back into games in which they fell behind by at least two goals.

Carbonneau said his team has played with more "urgency" in third periods and "maybe Philadelphia has been sitting back a bit.

"When you're up 2-0 or 3-0, maybe you don't take as many chances and that opens up more room to use our speed. And maybe because we use our speed and transition game they get a little tired. That's why I think it will help us playing three games in four nights."

Their power play, best in the league in the regular season, has not fully bounced back after a dry opening round against Boston with four goals in as many games.

They have had possession of the puck the majority of the time and have hit countless goalposts and crossbars, but still they are still losing to the more opportunistic Flyers.

Martin Biron's solid play in the Flyers' net combined with the so-so play of Montreal's goalies only partly explains it. Giveaways at bad moments have also hurt the Habs while the Flyers, who have scoring talent three lines deep, are much better at converting chances than the punchless Bruins were in the first round.

There was a look of urgency to the Canadiens' game on Wednesday night in Philadelphia, but they will need more of it to stave off elimination.

"Every time you go through a tough situation, it's good to step back and reflect on what you've done," said Carbonneau, one of the three finalists for the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year. "In September, no one saw us here.

"We accomplished a lot and I don't think we're done. It's a question of hitting the right button at the right time."

Flyers centre Daniel Briere expects the Canadiens to come out hard.

"We know the last win will be the toughest and I am expecting Montreal to play with a lot more urgency, a little bit like Washington did to us in games five, six and seven," Briere said on a conference call in Philadelphia.

"It's been a weird series so far. But at the same time, we've said all along we can't worry about the other team. We have to worry about us. We are trying to improve our play."

Biron said the Flyers learned in the opening round what awaits them in trying to close out Montreal. And they will have to be ready for it.

"We were up 2-0 in Game 6 at home against Washington and ended up losing that one," said Biron. "I think you have to know that until the job is totally done, anything can happen and that is where our desperation and urgency has to come from.

"When you play a team that is desperate, that doesn't see any other option but winning, that gives them an edge. Being on the other side, you have to have that same edge in your game."

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