SPORTS

Canadiens hope for power play success, even while winning without it

04/23/2015 05:48 EDT | Updated 07/20/2015 09:59 EDT
BROSSARD, Que. - Being lousy on the power play didn't stop the Montreal Canadiens from finishing first in the Atlantic Division, and being even worse in the first round of NHL playoffs hasn't prevented them from taking a 3-1 lead on the Ottawa Senators.

But it is an area they hope to improve as the games get tighter and the post-season tension mounts.

The Canadiens' power play ranked 15th out of the 16 playoff teams on Thursday, with only one goal in 16 attempts for a 6.2 per cent success rate.

Yet they can close out the best-of-seven series with a win Friday night at the Bell Centre.

"We're not concerned; you have to take it for what it is," said winger Brendan Gallagher. "You look at the whole.

"We're up 3-1 in the series. It's a very important game obviously. If we allow them to win this game, then they have momentum going home. We just have to match their desperation level and the power play is a part of it."

Coach Michel Therrien said his team works regularly, on the ice and in meetings, to find ways to get scoring chances. Even 40-year-old defenceman Sergei Gonchar, who hasn't played in the series but is a veteran power play point man, chips in with ideas during video sessions.

Max Pacioretty scored the team's only man advantage goal so far in the second period of Game 2.

"To have success, the first thing you have to do is execute," said Therrien. "Right now, our execution is not quite as sharp as we're looking for.

"We've got to make sure we make the right decisions with the puck, make sure we get net presence, make sure we take the right shot at the right time. We discuss the power play every day with the players to make sure they're on the same page. If we do that, eventually we'll have success."

The Canadiens power play is sometimes criticized for being too predictable. It centres on two excellent point men, Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban. Teams, including Ottawa, have learned that covering them closely limits Montreal's options.

It was the same in regular season when Montreal ranked 23rd in the 30-team league with a 16.5 per cent scoring rate, yet still produced a 50-22-10 record.

A few teams that won Stanley Cups in recent years, including Boston, Chicago and last year's Los Angeles Kings, laboured to score on the power play.

But the Canadiens could still use the extra offence, particularly against an Ottawa side that played its strongest checking game of the series in a 1-0 victory to stave off elimination on Wednesday night, and whose goalie Craig Anderson has stopped 75 of 77 shots since he took over from Andrew Hammond in Game 3.

Ottawa has three power play goals and ranks fourth in the playoffs at 25 per cent, but two goals came on the same five-minute advantage in the series opener. Montreal, with the gifted Carey Price in goal, was one of the top penalty killing clubs all season.

"In these close games you've got to find a way to get momentum and hopefully a goal from the power play," said winger Alex Galchenyuk. "You don't always get what you want, but we've got to stick together and keep battling and find a way to get into the scoring areas and create good offensive chances."

Despite howls to the contrary from some fans, Therrien feels the scoring woes are not a question of personnel so Gonchar and winger P.A. Parenteau will continue to sit out.

"I like our line-up, we evaluate it every day," he said. "We got our share of scoring chances.

"You've got to give credit to Anderson. He's playing really well. We have to keep putting pressure on their defence and their goalie and, if you do that, things are going to change."

Defenceman Greg Pateryn, who made his playoff debut in place of the injured Nathan Beaulieu, is expected to play. He suffered a nasty cut over the left eye in a collision with Erik Condra in the second period. He got stitched up and only sat out nearly the entire third period only because Therrien shortened his bench looking for the tying goal.

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