BOSTON – Thomas Vanek answered his critics with a pair of goals but it was all for naught Saturday as the Canadiens wasted a 3-1 third-period lead and fell 5-3 to the Boston Bruins.
Vanek was one of the few Habs not in the red in the plus-minus column after the Game 2 defeat. But it didn’t mean much on the day.
“It doesn’t matter … a couple of good shots and I got a stick on it,” he said, when his personal statistics were raised.
Vanek, who had four shots on goal, called it “a game we should have had.”
Vanek came in for scrutiny after his Game 1 performance. Montreal won 4-3 in double overtime, but the Austrian winger was minus-one and failed to register a shot on net.
Montreal coach Michel Therrien said Vanek was one of several players who needed to step up their game.
Asked Saturday before Game 2 against the Bruins about what he can do to get more out of a player like Thomas Vanek, the coach did not mince words.
“It’s not about Thomas Vanek,” he said, before seemingly taking aim at the same player.
“One thing that’s not negotiable with our team … work ethic is not negotiable, attitude is not negotiable and competing is not negotiable. This is something we ask from every player on our hockey team. We have to make sure that everyone brings those elements to every single shift and every single game.
“It’s not about one player,” he added. “I’m not talking about one player. Because you can’t judge a player with points and goals … As a coach sometimes you have to make an adjustment regarding things that are not negotiable.”
Therrien juggled his lines in Game 1, expressing satisfaction later only with the trio of Lars Eller, Rene Bourque and Brian Gionta. That trio was a combined minus-nine Saturday.
In five playoff games prior to Saturday, the Habs’ top line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Vanek had combined for three goals and four assists. They added two goals and two assists in Game 2.
Vanek was dropped from the No. 1 line for part of Thursday’s game and saw 18 minutes 58 seconds of ice time Thursday, compared to 22:33 for Desharnais and 23:33 for Pacioretty.
On Saturday, Vanek was on the ice for 16:57, compared to 19:58 for Desharnais and 21:35 for Pacioretty. And it was not all red-light celebrations as he whiffed one shot on net after a good pass from a teammate.
Defenceman P.K. Subban praised Vanek’s performance, while noting the playoffs are more about team than individuals.
“He stepped up, got two big power-play goals for us, but it doesn’t mean anything when we blow a two-goal lead,” he said. “So we have to play better for a full 60.”
The 30-year-old Vanek, acquired from the Islanders in early March, is eligible for free agency this summer and is the Habs’ highest-earner this season at US$6.4 million.
He has 277 goals and 279 assists for 556 points in 663 regular season NHL games.