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Therrien cautions Canadiens need more from top line

by Arpon Basu

BROSSARD, Quebec -- The inability of Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais to make an offensive impact in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is beginning to wear on Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien.

Friday, a day after the Canadiens' 1-0 loss at home to the Boston Bruins in Game 4 that tied their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series 2-2, Therrien was asked about his top two offensive players all season.

His answer, while not directly naming them, was revealing.

"If you look at the playoffs from the start, there are certain players that are having some trouble contributing offensively. These types of players need to adjust to the intensity of the playoffs," Therrien said in a conference call with reporters.

"Yes, they are being checked very tightly, we're aware of it on both sides. But there's an intensity to the beginning of the season, an intensity to the middle of the season and there's an intensity to the end of the regular season.

"But when you get to the playoffs, it's another type of intensity. Those types of players need to adapt to that challenge."

Though it is true Desharnais and Pacioretty have been made a defensive priority by Bruins coach Claude Julien, Therrien was able to get their line with Brendan Gallagher away from Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara and center Patrice Bergeron for most of Game 4.

"I'm not pointing my finger at anyone," Therrien said. "There's a group of players that need to perform and bring us some more offense."

Desharnais, Pacioretty and Gallagher combined for four shots on goal in the game matched up principally against Boston's third line of Carl Soderberg, Loui Eriksson and Matt Fraser and the defense pairing of Matt Bartkowski and Johnny Boychuk.

Desharnais and Pacioretty have one point at even strength in eight playoff games after combining for 79 even-strength points in the regular season. That lack of production at 5-on-5 is what prompted Therrien to remove Thomas Vanek from their line and replace him with Gallagher in Game 3, a 4-2 Canadiens win.

In Vanek's first game on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Michael Bournival, he produced a highlight-reel assist to Plekanec. In Game 4, Vanek set up Bournival for a number of great chances, resulting in the rookie finishing with four shots on goal, or as many as the Desharnais line combined.

"This is an adjustment for them," Therrien said, "and they have to find that adjustment as quick as they can."

Even when discussing the play of Bournival, who had nearly as many shots Tuesday as he did in his previous six games combined (five), Therrien managed to take a bit of a shot at some of his top players by suggesting the rookie doesn't need to make any adjustments to the intensity of the playoffs.

"[Bournival] feels perfectly comfortable playing in a game like that," Therrien said. "He was definitely one of our most committed forwards in the game."

Aside from the lack of production from the top line, there was no sense of panic around the Canadiens on Friday.

Yes, they are facing the NHL's best regular-season team in a best-of-3 situation without home-ice advantage, but the Canadiens insist they are a confident team.

"It [stinks] to lose, it always hurts no matter what, but we're not discouraged," said center Lars Eller, who has been one of Montreal's most consistent forwards. "It's 2-2 and it's still a very open series. We've won games in Boston before, we're confident we can do it again, and we're not in a bad position here.

"We're still confident."

Looking ahead to Game 5 on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), one of the questions facing the Canadiens will be what Therrien will do with his third defense pairing of Mike Weaver and Douglas Murray.

They were often matched against Boston's Soderberg line, which not only produced the Game 4 overtime winner from Fraser but was a possession monster with even-strength shot-attempt percentages higher than 70 percent for all three members of the line, according to

Therrien said he was very pleased with the performance of his third pairing, and Murray in particular.

Murray was inserted in the lineup prior to Game 3 to replace Francis Bouillon and has played 26:18 and been credited with 11 hits.

"I thought they played really well. I thought they were physical, they were blocking shots, they contained really well for most of the game," Therrien said. "A guy like Douglas Murray, he's a tough customer. He's tough to play against, he's physical and certainly he's a presence out there for us.

"I thought Weaver and Murray did a fantastic job for us."

Without the last line change in Boston, Therrien might feel compelled to bring Bouillon back in for Game 5 or he might not considering how well he thought Murray played in Game 4.

Either way, Plekanec said he feels with the series tied the Bruins are the team that will be under the gun to win Game 5 in front of their fans, and not the Canadiens.

"We expect a long series," Plekanec said. "It's not a surprise it's 2-2. Now we're going to their building and I think it's pressure on them.

"They're playing at home and they need that game."

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