TAMPA, Fla. – There are two ways to look at Dale Weise scoring the Game 1 overtime winner for the Montreal Canadiens.
From a glass-half-empty perspective, the Habs probably shouldn’t have needed the fourth-liner to score after outshooting the Tampa Bay Lightning by more than double in regulation and dominating the play.
From a glass-half-full perspective, they can be thankful they spread the scoring around five different players.
That’s the kind of depth that can propel a team in the playoffs, and while the power play tops the list of what must improve for Game 2 and beyond in this series, the Habs are confident in the bevy of scoring options they have up and down the lineup.
“It’s playoffs, I think you see a lot of guys like Weiser, a lot of guys in his kind of role are going to score those big goals in overtime or late in the third period,” winger Rene Bourque said. “It’s nice, though, we do have depth. We could rotate guys in and out of the lineup from the first to the fourth line.”
The Habs got goals from the first (Thomas Vanek), second (Tomas Plekanec), third (Lars Eller and Brian Gionta) and fourth line (Weise) in Game 1 on Wednesday night. That kind of scoring balance makes it hard for any opponent to key on one line.
“We need contributions from everyone if we want to have success,” coach Michel Therrien said. “You need to use and you need to show confidence in all your players when you go to the playoffs.”
Therrien showed plenty of confidence in his forwards, playing each at least 12 minutes. That includes almost a full extra period because of overtime, but it’s not like the fourth line of Weise, Daniel Briere and Michael Bournival got benched when the game was on the line.
The Habs put 35 shots on net in regulation to the Lightning’s 16. That was one reason why defenceman P.K. Subban liked the “structure” of play so much.
“I can’t remember the last game we outshot a team,” Subban said. “For us, structurally, I thought we did a great job.”
Problem is, the Habs did a great job and still couldn’t close the deal. No lead lasted more than four minutes, and they could never take a stranglehold on the game.
One reason was that Montreal’s power-play drought extended to 0 goals in its last 25 chances dating to March 26.
Therrien put his team through some power-play work at Tampa Bay Times Forum on Thursday.
“I’m confident as a coach that it will be more productive,” he said. “By working, by communicating, by teaching, this is the way we believe that eventually we’re going to be better.”
Subban put the blame on everyone, saying the defencemen need to do a better job of putting the puck in better places for forwards to retrieve it. As for what exactly isn’t working, check the scoreboard.
“You know what? We’re not scoring,” Subban said. “It’s just not going in for us. If we score, it changes everything.”
In addition to the power play, the Habs might want to stop giving up as many quality chances as they did. After the 5-4 victory, captain Brian Gionta called the shot total “misleading” because the Lightning had several golden opportunities.
Those opportunities, and the goals that resulted, also frustrated goaltender Carey Price. The Habs don’t want that.
“I think hockey’s a game of mistakes and you see yesterday, they capitalized on every mistake we made,” Bourque said. “We’ve just got to tighten up defensively a little bit more.”
Players and Therrien expect plenty of adjustments and for this to be a long series that changes as it develops. But even winning Game 1 the Habs know what they cannot continue to do.
“If we give up four goals I’m not sure we’re going to win the next game,” Therrien said. “There were a few breakdowns that we’re going to approach with our team to make sure we’re more solid.”
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