PITTSBURGH — Michel Therrien says the Canadiens are trying to get ready for the playoffs, but they’re not playing playoff hockey.
“We are trying to prepare ourselves for the playoffs and obviously we didn’t have a good night, and we’re going to have to tighten up our defensive game,” said Therrien. “We can’t give up six goals, five goals like we’ve been doing the last three games. We have to get back to basics.
“Defensively, there was too much room between the forwards and the defencemen,” added Therrien. “We don’t play as a unit of five and that makes us an easy team to play against.”
Therrien continued to play a game of musical goaltenders as he lifted his starting goaltender for the third consecutive game. But he said that it wasn’t a case of being unhappy with Peter Budaj, whose bid for an eighth consecutive win ended when he gave up three goals on nine shots in the first period.
“I was trying to change the momentum,” said Therrien, who paused before he added: “It didn’t work.”
Therrien appealed to his veterans to turn things around and said: “We’re facing a difficult time and it’s time to show we’re solid as a group. I thought tonight we had good intention, but we gave up some early goals and lost confidence.”
“It’s frustrating,” said defenceman Josh Gorges. “When you’re under the gun like that and things go wrong, you start gripping the stick a little tighter and I was most guilty of that tonight. As tough as it is, you have to find a way to stay resilient and stay true to what works, stay true to the team and the system.”
Gorges, who was on the ice for the first four Pittsburgh goals, said it’s wrong to blame the goaltending.
“I wouldn’t blame the goalies at all, especially the last two games,” he said. “If you want to blame someone, blame me. I’ll take full responsibility for the way we’ve played the last little bit.
“When you get behind early, you’re not just playing the game, you’re fighting among yourselves,” added Gorges. “You’re fighting the whole mental battle.”
P.K. Subban finished the game as a plus-1, but this was not one of his better games. He was limited to 16:18 of ice time — for comparison, the seldom-used Yannick Weber played 16:49 — and he left the game when he was assessed a minor and a 10-minute misconduct late in the third period. He seemed to let the Penguins’ Brenden Morrow get under his skin and the two engaged in a wrestling match in the third period.
Morrow collected two goals and an assist, and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma praised the late-season addition for chipping in with key goals and for playing the agitator role. But the reality is that, while the Canadiens outshot the Penguins and it could be argued that they fought to the end, the final score flattered the visitors.
One of the Montreal goals was scored by Gabriel Dumont, who was dressed because Michael Ryder is injured and Ryan White has been suspended for five games. It was Dumont’s first NHL goal, but he said it was bittersweet.
“Obviously, you don’t want to score in a loss,” he said. “You wish your goal helped the team win. But I’m happy I scored my first and I hope there are many more coming.”
Addressing the team’s performance, Dumont said: “It’s not a lack of effort or a lack of pride or will to be better. Everybody is affected by what is going on. Nobody likes what’s happening right now, but we’ve got character players and I just hope we’ll get on the right track as soon as possible.”
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