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Cracking Bishop and scoring six goals has Habs optimistic despite 3-1 deficit

05/08/2015 02:03 EDT | Updated 05/08/2016 05:59 EDT
TAMPA, Fla. - By chasing Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop and scoring six goals in Game 4, the Montreal Canadiens showed they have a pulse. And it's beating pretty well.

They're still down three games to one in the second-round playoff series and face elimination again Saturday night back at Bell Centre in Game 5. But the Canadiens left Florida feeling confident given their play in two games on the road.

That confidence stems more from getting to Bishop and winning convincingly than ending a streak of eight straight losses against the Lightning.

"I don't think it's a mental hump we have to get over," defenceman Jeff Petry said Friday morning. "We've played well enough to win games against this team. Whether it's a bounce here, a bounce there, it hasn't gone our way. Our focus is just to continue playing our style and we knew things would break."

Things broke in a big way in a 6-2 victory at Amalie Arena that included six different goal scorers. Montreal controlled the play much as it did the previous night, but instead of losing a heartbreaker in the final seconds put the game away early with five straight goals.

Coach Michel Therrien said Thursday night there was "no doubt" seeing the puck go in past Bishop three times and watching the goaltender get the hook was a confidence-builder for his team. Bishop stopped 100 of the first 104 shots he faced in the first three games of the series.

"We get as much pressure as we can on him and go to the net, score some goals, shoot a lot of pucks at him and it will pay off eventually," centre Tomas Plekanec said Friday morning at the team hotel before flying back to Montreal.

Bishop was hardly to blame for the Habs' first two goals but gave up a softie off his glove off the stick of David Desharnais. It was the second such goal of the series, leading to the question of whether Bishop's glove side is a weakness that can be exploited.

"Our scouting reports and everything we've seen is he's good on the first shot, and if he does have a weakness we're going to try to expose that," Petry said. "It may be glove-side but just take what's open when you're coming down there."

Bishop aside, the offensive explosion in Game 4 could be a boost. The Habs went in averaging under two goals a game and had just one power-play goal.

Defenceman P.K. Subban said he and his teammates don't expect to put up a six spot again in Game 5 but have a better grip mentally now that they've seen the puck go in a few times. He also thinks it can have an effect on the Lightning's skaters.

"I know as a defenceman when teams score on you like that, it gives you that doubt," Subban said Thursday night. "Their D especially like to lead the rush, now you're thinking, 'Should I jump? Do I not want to get caught?' Guys are feeling confident. It's a different feeling when a team's only scoring one goal a game or two goals a game. You know they're able to put the puck in the net."

One of those was even a power-play goal from Petry, just the Habs' second of the playoffs in 29 tries. Getting the power play going would be one way to keep the series going.

Don't expect Montreal to change much in their game plan going home after holding Steven Stamkos without a shot for the past six periods and generally outplaying the Lightning. If that trend continues or Carey Price steals a game the series could get interesting.

After being in Tampa Bay's shoes in the first round by going up 3-0 on the Ottawa Senators and losing the next two, the Habs know the burden of pressure can shift even though they're still facing a major deficit.

"It's always a comfortable lead when you're up by three, but on the other hand you've got to understand momentum can change quick," Therrien said. "Momentum in hockey changes quick and breaks change quick."

Their task is to capitalize on that, building off their first victory against the Lightning this season and trying to replicate the past two games.

"They're going to feel a little bit of heat, so they're going to play desperate," forward Max Pacioretty said Thursday night. "We are still down 3-1. We need to play with that desperation next game and hope to start to creep in their minds by playing the right way."

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