Brossard, QUEBEC — The Montreal Canadiens held an optional practice Saturday after losing 2-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opening game of their Stanley Cup Playoff series Friday.
By morning, the game-winning goal by Nikita Kucherov in double overtime, borne of a missed offside call that had coach Michel Therrien frustrated had been filed away and forgotten.
“We’re moving on,” Therrien explained in his post-practice comments. “When it just happened [Friday], it’s a normal reaction for the coaching staff; you think your players deserve better because of the effort they put in; our fans deserve better.”
For Therrien, getting past the frustration was facilitated by a sense of satisfaction with the way his team played the game, even if they lost.
“There are a lot of good things we did last night that I really liked,” said Therrien. “We were well prepared to play that game, and we knew exactly how the Lightning was playing, and our players were sharp.”
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What Therrien can’t be satisfied about is the level of production the Canadiens are achieving despite a strong showing on the shot clock — they led the Lightning 44-33 in Game 1 — and several quality scoring chances.
The power play, which went for 1-20 in the first round of the playoffs, was stagnant once again on Friday, missing on three opportunities. Of the eight teams that remain in the playoff picture, the Canadiens have the lowest goals per game average (1.86).
“We all want to score,” said Therrien in French. “An eighth of an inch further and we’d all be talking about the success of our power play,” he mentioned in regards to forward Brendan Gallagher getting a puck partially over the goal line in the first period.
“When it comes down to it, you need to get some breaks,” Therrien continued. “It’s a question of ‘hockey karma’.
“We hit two posts; we’re talking about an inch. One inch the other way and everyone would be talking about how extraordinary our offence was. Perception is funny. We don’t live in perception, we live in reality.”
Alternate captain Tomas Plekanec’s perception is that the Canadiens are on the verge of an offensive outburst.
“Sometimes you score goals that you’re not supposed to score; going through the feet, off the skates,” said Plekanec. “I’m sure we’re going to explode soon and we’re going to put some in.”
Therrien continued to stress the process the Canadiens must undertake to avoid another frustrating outcome. His parting message on Saturday was that his team is headed in the right direction to push this series to Tampa tied at 1-1 after Sunday’s Game 2, scheduled for 6pm EST.
“From a team standpoint, we did a lot of good things [Friday] to be really upbeat and confident,” said Therrien. “[Sunday night], it won’t be any different,” he said. “We’re going to be well prepared and we’re going to battle out there.”
The preparedness and combativeness from the Canadiens is going to have to more goals against the Eastern Conference’s highest scoring team in the playoffs to date.