OTTAWA – Despite snatching home-ice advantage from the Montreal Canadiens in the opener of their Eastern Conference quarter-final, the Ottawa Senators know they missed a big opportunity with a poor effort in Game 2.
And the club will look to rebound when the Sens host the Habs in Game 3 on Sunday night with the series knotted at a game apiece.
With Max Pachioretty, Brian Gionta and Lars Eller all out of the lineup due to injury in Game 2, the Senators could have come home with a 2-0 series lead, but instead fell 3-1.
“We had an opportunity to really take a stranglehold, so we’re disappointed, but now we’re home and we have to take care of our business. It’s not going to be easy but we’re in a position that we can control,” Senators coach Paul MacLean said Saturday.
“I thought (the Canadiens) were harder at both nets than we were (Friday) and they were consistently harder at the puck. They were better in the faceoff circle and they finished checks. So if you’re better in those stats I think you’re probably the team that played harder. Not that we didn’t play hard, but every game in the playoffs gets a little harder and we have to make sure that we raise our level.”
Ottawa, which took Game 1 of the series 4-2 on Thursday, hosts the next two games of the series at Scotiabank Place. Game 4 goes on Tuesday.
The Senators were one of the top home teams in the league during the regular season with a 15-6-3 record. The Canadiens, meanwhile, compiled a 15-7-2 road record, which was fourth best overall.
Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson says his club took too many penalties in Game 2 and after allowing the Canadiens to take a 3-1 lead late in the second period, the didn’t have the pushback they were looking for in the third period.
“Getting one game is better than getting none obviously, and it puts us in the driver’s seat at home,” Alfredsson said. “We want to take advantage of the way we’ve been playing at home all year and try and take charge of this series.”
Ottawa centre Kyle Turris says more offensive zone time is required if the Senators are going to be successful.
“We want to spend more time in their zone. We’re getting chances off the rush but we have to create more offensive zone time. More play in their end will create less time for them in our end,” said Turris, who has one assist and five shots through the first two games.
“We have to be physical. That’s something they took to us a bit in Game 2 and we’re going to have to engage in that more.”
While the Senators need a better effort in Game 3, the Canadiens will be looking for more of the same.
“We’ve got to stick to what made us successful last game,” Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges said before the team departed for Ottawa. “We’ve got to be a fast team. We’ve got to be a team that’s first on pucks. We’ve got to push the pace.
“We’re good when we keep putting pucks deep in the offensive zone and we get our cycle game going. We spend a lot of time in the offensive zone and whether we’re at home or whether we’re in Ottawa, we have to have that same mentality and that same urgency.”
Senators defenceman Eric Gryba will serve the second of his two-game suspension Sunday for a hit that left Canadiens forward Lars Eller with a concussion, as well as a broken nose some lost teeth.
Gryba, who received a five-minute major penalty for interference and a game misconduct on the play, maintains the hit was clean.
“Obviously disappointed with the league’s decision on that but there’s nothing I can do but move on,” Gryba said. “I still feel as though it was a shoulder-to-shoulder body check and a hockey play.”
The incident has sparked controversy not just for the hit, but for comments made by both teams in its aftermath. MacLean was accused of being disrespectful for saying Montreal defenceman Raphael Diaz was to blame for the incident for feeding Eller a dangerous pass up the middle, and by referring to Diaz as No. 61 and not by name.
Friday Canadiens enforcer Brandon Prust called MacLean a “bugged-eyed, fat walrus.”
MacLean had some fun with that Saturday.
“Bugged eyed. I’ve never been called that before. That’s a new one. Walrus. That’s too easy. But I’ll tell you one thing, I’m not fat. I might be husky, but I’m not fat,” MacLean joked, adding he doesn’t even know who No. 61 on his team is.
For the record, it’s Andre Benoit.