BROSSARD, Que. â€” The Montreal Canadiens playoff slogans are “all-in” and “opportunity awaits,” but one game into the post-season, nothing has gone in and they’re still waiting.
Despite putting 31 shots on Henrik Lundqvist in the opening game of their Eastern Conference quarter-final series against the New York Rangers, the Canadiens are still looking for their first goal.
“We’re creating chances; they’re there,” winger Alexander Radulov said Thursday. “When they give us rebounds we just have to bear down.
“We got zero goals and that’s not good, so we have to focus and get stronger.”
They will get that chance in Game 2 of the best-of-seven series on Friday night at the Bell Centre. The Rangers won the opener 2-0 on Wednesday night with a quirky first-period tally from fourth liner Tanner Glass and an empty-net goal by Michael Grabner.
Goals tend to be scarce in the playoffs, especially with Lundqvist in one net and Montreal’s Carey Price in the other, but the Canadiens will have to find a way to get at least one or two to avoid a second straight defeat on home ice.
“It’s the playoffs â€” you can’t win all 16 games straight,” said Radulov. “I think we played a solid game.
“We didn’t get the goals and it’s hard to win when you’re not scoring. We all understand that.”
The Canadiens had chances, especially while outshooting New York 16-5 in the first period. But nothing clicked. Plus the Rangers did a good job of recovering rebounds and Lundqvist, after a nervous-looking start, was solid in the final two periods.
At the other end, Tomas Plekanec won a faceoff only to see Glass grab it and lift a backhand shot under the crossbar for the only goal in 30 shots against Price.
“They’re tight games,” said coach Claude Julien. “You’ve got to make your own bounces and breaks.
“Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t. From that faceoff play, which we actually won, we got a stick on it and the backhand ended up top shelf. That was a good break for them.”
Julien, who took the Boston Bruins to a Stanley Cup in 2011, said teams also need a bit of luck sometimes to score in the post-season, when checking is tighter and opponents are blocking shots and playing with high energy.
He expects to make small adjustments but, but at practice, the lines and defence pairings had not changed.
So sometimes first line centre Alex Galchenyuk, a 30-goal man in 2015-16, was still on left wing on the fourth unit with checkers Steve Ott and Andreas Martinsen, although he got some power play time. And pressing for a goal late in the game, Galchenyuk moved onto the third trio with Andrew Shaw and Artturi Lehkonen.
Julien wants at least one scoring threat on each of his four lines and so far, he sees no reason to change. The Canadiens didn’t play badly, other than not scoring a goal.
“We know we want to be a bit better,” said Julien. “There’s still room for improvement, but certainly I don’t think there’s any reason to panic or make major changes to even show panic.
“We’re not trying to hide anything. There are a couple of guys, and I think they’ll tell you, that need to be better. But at the same time, we’re a confident group. If we play our game we’re very capable of winning with the lineup we have now. And if it’s not that, we’re confident that the depth we have will help along the way.”
The second line of Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron combined for only one shot on goal, although they had their hands full going mostly up against New York’s first unit. Defenceman Nikita Nesterov, who is replacing the injured Alexei Emelin, had some rough shifts.
“We have to be a little harder around the net,” said Martinsen. “I think (the Rangers) won a few more battles and maybe played a bit better than we did, but we still have a lot more to show.”
Emelin is to sit out a second game but Julien said he may make the trip to New York for the third and fourth games. He has not resumed skating and it is uncertain when he will be ready to play, however.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press