The Montreal Canadiens might face more pressure at home with their season on the line than they did in staving off elimination in Washington.
With two days off before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference first-round series on Monday night, the high expectations of Canadiens' fans were felt in the team's dressing room.
The Canadiens have already lost twice at home to the Capitals in this series, but they stayed alive with a road win in Game 5. Montreal will need to knock off the Presidents' Trophy winners at the Bell Centre to force a deciding Game 7 back in Washington.
The Capitals lead the series 3-2.
Montreal is 6-13 at home in the playoffs since its current streak of sellouts began in 2003.
``We appreciate and respect our crowd very much,'' forward Michael Cammalleri said Sunday after practice. ``It's the reason why it's so much fun to play for the Montreal Canadiens. You get chills every game when you get on that ice.
``We want to play for our crowd, and I think the best way for us to do that, though, is to try and win the hockey game. You can't play the game trying to appease people. You have to play the game trying to win the game. And if we win the game, everybody is going to be happy.''
Happiness in hockey-mad Montreal has been in short supply since the Canadiens' last Stanley Cup parade was held in 1993. Though everyone wearing the home team's red, white and blue was quite pleased midway through the first period of Game 3.
That was when yet another full house gave the Canadiens a standing ovation for their play even though the game was still scoreless. Montreal then allowed four second-period goals on the way to a 5-1 loss.
The Canadiens' fans were flying high again when their team took a 2-1 lead in the second period of Game 4. Washington short-circuited the energy in the building with a short-handed goal for the second game in a row in the final seconds of the middle period. Alex Ovechkin scored the go-ahead goal in the third, sending the Capitals to a 6-3 win.
Montreal's home playoff losing streak stands at six.
``They're the same as any other crowd, they're just a lot bigger and a lot louder,'' Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill said. ``But they're on top of the game and they react to everything.
``It could be a dump out of the zone that doesn't make it quite over the red line and they'll give you an ``ohhhhhh!'' They're on top of it. They're on top of every idiosyncrasy, every turn of the page, they're on it. You hear that, you can't be, 'Oh, that's the end of the world.' You have to ride it out. It's a challenge in that respect.''
Cammalleri said the Canadiens need to draw on the crowd's energy.
``We've had great starts, and probably our crowd helped with that in the two games at home,'' he said. ``I think it's important that we just sustain it and we come out with more of an even energy level throughout the game. We're preparing to play and win a game and not just come out as crazy as gangbusters as we can.''
The Capitals practiced in Arlington, Va. for the second day in a row Sunday before they flew to Montreal. Washington is seeking a quick start that could take the revved-up fans out of the game.
``It's important because it's an important game,'' Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. ``You just have to be ready as we're sure the crowd will be ready and they will be ready. It will be an electric atmosphere again.
``But I don't think its the blueprint on how we've succeeded this year. I think we've probably come from behind at least as many as any other team in the league or not had the first goal scored and gone on to win. In a perfect world, we'd love to score the first goal and the second goal and so forth.''
Capitals defenseman Tom Poti believes a strong start Monday would be a great sign.
``It seems like a couple of games this series we haven't really come out in the early stages of the game,'' Poti said. ``If we can come out and set the tone, we have a good chance to win.''
Capitals forward Eric Belanger's status for Game 6 remains uncertain. Belanger lost eight teeth Friday when he was struck in the mouth by the stick of Montreal defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron. Belanger finished the game but has had extensive dental work done.
``Every day that goes by, his mouth is feeling a little better and he is getting to eat more food,'' Boudreau said. ``He skated well. The question we all have is the energy. Is he going to have enough to go (Monday) or will it be a couple of more days? That will be a game-time decision.''
Belanger's toughness was not lost on his teammates. Ovechkin held him up as an example for what the Capitals have to do to return home and await the start of their second-round series against Philadelphia instead of preparing for Game 7.
``Just play all 60 minutes and do whatever it takes to win the game,'' Ovechkin said. ``(Belanger) lost eight teeth and he is jumping in and playing. It's the playoffs. If you are hurt or don't feel good, it doesn't matter. You just play hard.''