MONTREAL (AP) With his team facing elimination, captain Max Pacioretty says it is the perfect time for the Montreal Canadiens to show what they’re made of.
The Canadiens are down 3-2 in their first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers. The Atlantic Division champions could be eliminated in Game 6 on Saturday in New York.
”We have to be disappointed that it was an opportunity blown, but excited at a big challenge that we can show our character here,” said Pacioretty, who led the team in regular-season goals but hasn’t scored in the playoffs. ”We came back a lot this year, we’ve shown that, and we’ve got an opportunity to show that in this series. We have to tune out all this noise. We’ve done an OK job of tuning out the negativity thus far. It’s important, especially in Montreal.”
The Habs held a 2-1 series lead before dropping back-to-back games.
”We’re going into a situation here where we’re going to learn a lot about our group,” said Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher. ”We’re going to learn what type of character we have. If you don’t have character, this is the time where you’re going to doubt yourself. If you have character, this is the time that belief is going to come out of your group.”
During the regular season, Montreal led the league in third-period comebacks, winning 11 games when trailing after two periods.
Coach Claude Julien said he hopes that same resilience carries over to the elimination game.
”I believe in this team,” said Julien. ”They’ve shown it throughout the year, coming from behind. They’ve shown a lot of character in the past. This is their chance to show it again.”
Since 2002, the Canadiens have been down 3-2 in a playoff series on nine separate occasions. Montreal came back to win the series four times.
”You can’t be thinking about Game 7 until you take care of Game 6,” said Julien. ”We have to put our energy there. The pressure is on them to close the series. For us, it’s to survive. The focus has to be on Game 6.”
The series has been tense at time and there was a rare playoff fight between New York’s Brendan Smith and Montreal’s Andrew Shaw in the first period Thursday night after a pileup in the Rangers crease.
Smith, acquired from Detroit on Feb. 28, said nastiness in front of the net is just part of playoff hockey.
”Both teams are walking the line,” he said. ”There are a lot of guys who kind of waver, myself included. I’ve had refs say `You’re on the line now.’ I understand that. They have (Brendan) Gallagher, Shaw. They’re always on that line but you have to make sure you don’t cross it because you can’t give up power plays.”
The Rangers were expecting even more intensity from the Canadiens on Saturday night.