BROSSARD, Que. — Canadiens coach Michel Therrien was unapologetic Friday about pointing the finger at defenceman P.K. Subban following Montreal’s 3-2 loss to Colorado Wednesday.
“It was a selfish play that cost us the game,” Therrien said Wednesday night. “The team worked hard. We deserved a better result. It’s too bad an individual mistake cost us the game late in the game.”
With 2:17 left in the game, and the score tied at 2-2, Subban carried the puck with one hand on his stick and used the other to fend off Colorado’s Mikhail Grigorenko.
Grigorenko stripped the puck as Subban lost his balance and fell near the boards in Colorado’s end. A three-man rush ensued and Avalanche forward Jarome Iginla scored with 2:03 remaining.
Therrien’s post-game comments were widely met with consternation from Canadiens fans. Several reputable hockey analysts and columnists took exception as well, with many of them suggesting the coach should be fired.
On Friday, Therrien said he felt the response was understandably blown out of proportion based on Subban’s popularity and the nature of Montreal as a hockey market. He also insisted his decision to blame Subban publicly was nothing personal.
“It would’ve been any guy—I’m going to repeat myself—in that situation, that time of the game; we would’ve mentioned that that was not the right play to do,” said Therrien. “It’s not because it was P.K. I want you to trust me on this because we want our players to learn and we want them to be better.”
When pressed about whether or not he and Subban have a strained relationship, Therrien said it was to the contrary.
“He’s a loveable guy,” Therrien said in French. “He wants nothing but good for everyone. He’s always in a playful mood—we have no problem with that. We want enthusiastic and emotional guys like that. It’s fun working with him.”
As far as Subban was concerned, he felt the play in which he turned over the puck was unlucky. He had no regret about the decision he made to carry the puck instead of placing it in the corner when it got to him at the offensive blueline.
“Obviously you want to play the clock and you want to understand the time of the game,” said Subban. “I didn’t see it as a high-risk play because I had full control of the puck, I was in a strong position; I wasn’t in a weak position.
“For me the way I look at it: I’ve probably made that play 1,000 times this season, and other times it’s resulted with the puck in the back of the other team’s net. I’m not going to go and look over at that play again because I know what happened. I lost an edge.”
Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty admitted he was partially to blame for Colorado’s game-winning goal.
Pacioretty said he, Canadiens centre Jacob De La Rose and defenceman Andrei Markov got their assignments mixed up on the play.
As for his coach’s comments thereafter, Pacioretty felt there was a tactical element at play.
“It’s not like you just say things or do things that aren’t planned,” said Pacioretty. “Obviously when he does that, he knows that P.K. can handle it. Maybe he’s doing something to get him fired up for the next game.
“Look at P.K. today, he’s smiling, he knows that he wants to be better and you know he wants to win. It’s frustrating to see people get blamed or get singled out, but there’s always a reason behind it.”
As for the idea that there’s tension brewing between Subban and Therrien or that the players have turned on the coach, Pacioretty said, “There are no hard feelings between anyone.”
The Canadiens have now turned their focus to Friday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The only change Therrien is making to his lineup is in net, where Mike Condon will start instead of Ben Scrivens.
“I really liked the way we played against the Avalanche,” said Therrien. “I thought we were aggressive, I liked the way we moved the puck and I liked our skating.”