The Montreal Canadiens would probably never admit it, but you have to wonder what effect two goals in the final minutes of their opening game against the Calgary Flames did for their second game, which was Montreal’s first loss in regulation time this season.
The Canadiens dominated the scoreboard in their 4-2 win, to the point where the two goals Calgary scored had no impact on that game. In the next game, however, the Canadiens played better, but the Flames had some belief. It allowed them to come out strong in the first 10 minutes, where they took a lead they never surrendered.
When teams play back-to-back games against the same opponent as often as they do this season, there can’t be any coasting to the finish line. When Montreal went up 6-1 after 40 minutes on Monday, they knew that what they couldn’t let the Vancouver Canucks get anything to make them feel good going into Tuesday’s game.
“That’s something we talked about in the intermission,” said Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry. “We had enough goals to win the game but we wanted to make sure we didn’t give them anything to feed off for [Tuesday].”
Although the Canucks scored the period’s only goal, Montreal didn’t sit back on the lead. They outshot Vancouver 15-10 despite taking the period’s only penalty. Their shot attempt differential at five-on-five in the third period was their best of the game.
“When you have a lead like that, there were other games where we let our guard down and gave them scoring opportunities so it’s something we talked about [and something] we want to continue to work on as games go on.”
The team also only allowed two high danger scoring chances at even strength.
“Our third period the last couple of games, we gave up a lot of chances so we need to figure out a way that we can play the same way and close out leads,” he said. “They’re not all going to be five goal leads so we have to make sure we play the right way so it becomes second nature to close out games.”