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(AP) Montreal captain Saku Koivu says the Canadiens will have to avoid being swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning for this season to be a success.
“If you lose 4-0 in the playoffs, I don’t consider that a great season,” Koivu said Wednesday. “We’ve gone too far to quit now and feel sorry for ourselves and say we did some good things.”
The Canadiens surprised many just by reaching the playoffs, then they shocked even more by rallying from a 3-1 series deficit in the first round to eliminate the Boston Bruins.
“We have to think of it as one game, like a Game 7, and if we win that, hopefully go back to Tampa and steal one and get momentum,” Koivu said. “That’s how we have to approach this.
“We know it’s not going to be easy. The other team wants to get it done as quickly as possible. It’ll be interesting.”
Only two teams in Stanley Cup playoff history have come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series — the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders.
The Lightning expect Montreal to continue trying to hit their best players — Lecavalier and St. Louis in particular — as they did in Game 3. “We know they’re going to try to hit people to put them off their game,” Lightning coach John Tortorella said. “We do the same thing.”
(Gazette) Coach Claude Julien said the strategy is simple as the Canadiens strive to avoid a sweep tonight in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Tampa Bay Lightning (7 p.m., CBC, SRC, RDS, CJAD Radio-800).
“We have to play with the same intensity we played with (in Game 3),” said Julien, whose team trails the best-of-seven series 3-0. “We dominated that game and we know we should have won.”
Unfortunately for the Canadiens, there was one area in which they did not dominate. Tampa Bay goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin continued to be outstanding as he backstopped the Lightning to a 4-3 overtime win Tuesday night.
His Montreal counterpart, Jose Theodore, emerged from the shadows yesterday to admit: “It wasn’t my best game of the series.” Before you scream that Theodore is not playing well, before you charge him with the capital offence of letting down the CH in the playoffs, try to put yourself in his shoes for an afternoon. From the beginning of this season, Theodore has shown an almost transcendent mental toughness in dragging himself back from an off year to lead his team to the playoffs and to help them crawl out of a 3-1 deficit against Boston. All this while coping with problems that would prompt most of us to ask for a year’s leave of absence from our jobs, or hop the next freight to Patagonia. Jose Theodore is a man like any other. A little stronger, a little richer, for sure, but a man. A young man who will step into that crease tonight with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
The Canadiens are trailing 3-0 and only two teams – the 1942 Maple Leafs and the 1975 Islanders – have rallied to win a best-of-seven series after trailing 3-0.
As for their chances tonight, the Canadiens have participated in 110 best-of-seven playoff series and they have been swept on only three occasions – by Buffalo in 1998, Boston in 1992 and Detroit in 1952.
Improbable comeback: Speaking of history, there’s a chap in the St. Louis area named Matt Thomas who charts playoff results in baseball, hockey and basketball as the editor of a Web site: www.WhoWins.com.
He wants to let everyone know how the Lightning defied the odds with their comeback win Tuesday night. According to Thomas, and I’m certainly not going to go over the results since 1939 to try to prove him wrong, there have been 342 playoff games in which the home team had a one-goal lead with less than 20 seconds to play and the home team won 339 of them, for a winning percentage of .911.
(ESPN) Modin told ESPN.com the attention to detail is something the Lightning have learned. “I think it’s another part of our game we’re getting better at,” he said, “doing those little things, the right things at the right time. Getting the puck in or the puck out at the right time. It’s a point the coaching staff has stressed for a long, long time and a big reason for why we are where we are today.”
The Canadiens are in this hole because the Lightning have done a better job of taking care of the details. “Look at the tying goal. It’s a matter of chipping the puck out,” said Canadiens coach Claude Julien. “We’re going to say ‘you’re talking about Sundstrom.’ Yes, we are talking about Sundstrom. I’m not pointing the finger at him and blaming him for the loss, but those are pucks that are on his stick and you want the pucks to get out and it didn’t get out. The puck turns over and it winds up in our net.”
“Our players have grown a lot this year in a lot of areas. Even (Tuesday) night if you look at the game, a lot of the things we accomplished, there are so many positive things to take out of the game,” said Julien. “Just those little mistakes again made the difference in the game. Do you knock your team down for putting out the kind of effort it did (Tuesday)? Or do you just try to minimize and get better at the little things that cost us?”
The Canadiens put up a brave front, but the fact remains only two teams have ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. They are drawing on the fact they came back from a 3-1 hole against the Boston Bruins in the first round which also included a tough loss, that time in Game 4 when they blew a late lead and lost in OT.
Fact is, the Lightning are not the Boston Bruins. “We’ve been in this situation before and we all know what it takes to come back,” said Canadiens center Yanic Perreault. “We don’t want to look too far ahead. We need a big win (Thursday night) here in Montreal. We need to play the same way and get the result.”
It also wouldn’t hurt if Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore turned it up a notch. Tampa goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin has been better, something that’s going to have to change if the Habs are to live for another day. “No, I can’t stand here and say Jose’s outstanding and stood on his head,” admitted Julien on Wednesday. “He’s been good, but we also know that when Jose is on his game, there’s not much that goes by him. But it’s got nothing to do with pointing fingers. it’s about asking Jose and the rest of the team to give the most that they can in order for us to win hockey games.
“If there’s one thing our team has shown throughout this season is when it’s gone through some tough situations, it hasn’t given up. It’s worked even harder. It showed determination, resiliency, everything you need in order to succeed. “All you can ask of your players is the kind of effort they gave last night. We gave the effort that normally would give us the win. You’re not expecting your team to come out with miracles, just a great effort like it did.”
But as they learned in Game 3, against a team like the Lightning, even that might not be enough in Game 4.