SPORTS

Sense of deja vu for Canadiens ahead of playoff series vs. Senators

04/14/2015 02:53 EDT | Updated 06/24/2015 08:59 EDT
MONTREAL - With Montreal's first-round matchup versus the Senators set to begin Wednesday, a few Canadiens are having a strange sense of deja vu.

The Montreal Canadiens were eliminated by Ottawa in five games in the first round of the 2012-13 Stanley Cup playoffs, and a few of the returning players remember that series well.

"It's not something I've ever forgotten," said Brendan Gallagher, one of 10 current Canadiens who was on Montreal's playoff roster two years ago. "You don't think about it too much, but if you're not learning from your past experiences, you're not going to get better.

"For us to learn from that series and make sure it doesn't happen again is something on our mind."

After the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, the second-place Canadiens were considered favourites to beat the seventh-place Sens.

But Michel Therrien's men were hit with a slew of injuries, couldn't solve goalie Craig Anderson and were ultimately outscored 20-9. In the finale, the Habs lost 6-1 in front of their home fans.

"I remember it," said Alex Galchenyuk, who recorded three points in that five-game playoff series. "I want to beat these guys because they stopped us two years ago. You want to get back at them.

"We don't think about it too much. Whatever happened stays in the past. But we remember that they beat us, and we have to come in with more energy and more fuel."

The scenario this post-season is not so dissimilar from the one two years ago.

The Canadiens finished second in the Eastern Conference this year while the Senators were seventh. Ottawa is also wielding a red-hot netminder in Andrew Hammond, whose 20-1-2 record backed the Sens' improbable end-of-season run to the playoffs.

Lars Eller, who only played one full period of that 2013 series after being knocked out by Eric Gryba in Game 1, is dismissing any similarities.

"We haven't really looked much at statistics," he said. "There's no point of over-analyzing numbers, it's not going to help us. The playoffs are a new situation where the past doesn't matter.

"It's just motivation for us. There's no dwelling on the past from our side."

That 4-1 series loss in 2013 was a rude awakening for Gallagher, though, who had never experienced playoff hockey prior to that matchup.

Gallagher says Montreal's deep playoff run last year — the Canadiens made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals — will make a huge difference against the Senators this time around.

"It's about understanding what it takes to get to the next level," he said. "As you're going through, you learn what it takes as a team and individually — how you handle different situations and your emotions."

It's still unclear if Max Pacioretty will be in the lineup for Montreal on Wednesday. The team's top scorer fell awkwardly into the boards versus the Panthers on Apr. 5 and hasn't played since.

Though he practised with the team on Tuesday, Pacioretty was not a member of an attacking trio nor did he take part in team exercises involving contact.

"The medical staff has not told us yet that Max is going to be there for tomorrow," said Therrien, who added Pacioretty was in fact cleared for contact. "Maybe he will, but we're not quite sure. I will be surprised (if he plays)."

Notes: The Canadiens went 1-3-0 versus the Senators this season. They were outscored 14-9. … Mark Stone scored two game-winning goals for Ottawa against Montreal this year. … Pacioretty scored four goals versus the Sens this campaign.

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