‘We’re ready for the playoffs,’ Therrien proclaims
‘Character’ win puts pressure back on Lightning as teams jockey for second place in Atlantic Division and home ice in first round
OTTAWA — You can bet this wasn’t what Canadiens coach Michel Therrien was talking about when he said he wanted his team to play the right way.
The Canadiens crushed the Ottawa Senators 7-4 Friday night in a game that could only be described as bizarre.
The Senators raced to a 3-0 lead before the game was six minutes old and they outshot Montreal 43-23. Ottawa won 66 per cent of the faceoffs and had a wide edge in hits.
But Therrien said the Canadiens won because they had character.
“We showed a lot of character to come back after giving up three goals and as a coach you appreciate that,” said Therrien. “We didn’t quit and we showed that we’re ready for the playoffs. We’ve achieved our goal of making the playoffs and now we want to play solid and play with passion and we did that tonight.”
Well, maybe not the solid part.
“We expected them to come out hard and we weren’t sharp in the beginning,” said goaltender Peter Budaj. “They got a couple of nice goals, a couple of tips and a nice backdoor play, but we persevered. We scored some goals and we basically started the second period 0-0.
“In the second period, I felt good,” said Budaj, who had to be sharp as Ottawa outshot Montreal 15-4. “I made some big saves and we didn’t have many chances, but we scored two goals to take the lead. We didn’t play as well as we could in the second, but we came away with the lead.”
It was another big night for David Desharnais & Co. Max Pacioretty picked up his third hat-trick of the season — goalie Carey Price threw his hat on the ice to celebrate — and added an assist. Desharnais had a goal and an assist, and Thomas Vanek had three assists.
Pacioretty has 38 goals for the season and he is in a position to become the team’s first 40-goal scorer since Vinnie Damphousse potted 40 during the 1993-94 season.
“It’s not something I’m thinking about,” said Pacioretty. “I’m focused on helping the team win. I wouldn’t be very happy talking to you if we had lost tonight.”
The win allowed the Canadiens to put the pressure back on the Tampa Bay Lightning in their battle for second place in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Canadiens have 95 points, two points ahead of Tampa Bay. The Lightning has a game in hand, but Montreal holds the tiebreaker if they are deadlocked at the end of the season.
Defenceman Mike Weaver scored his first goal in two years and added an assist. He has four points in his last three games, but said he wasn’t turning into an offensive defenceman.
“That goal was a dump-in,” he said with a smile, adding that he was fortunate to have Vanek serving as a screen in front of goaltender Craig Anderson.
Andrei Markov also scored a goal, while two other defenceman stood out for different reasons.
Jarred Tinordi, who was in the lineup to replace the suspended Douglas Murray, more than held his own in a fight with Eric Gryba and he delivered a big hit on Ales Hemsky, who left the game with an upper-body injury.
P.K. Subban played only two shifts for a total of 37 seconds in the first period. Therrien benched him after he was on the ice for the first two Ottawa goals.
“We all saw it,” said Therrien. “I don’t believe he was ready to start the game. I had to take a decision, but I thought he was better in the second and third.”
Subban was on the ice for a season-low 13:39 and finished the game minus-3.
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