NEW YORK — One by one, Claude Julien and some of his Montreal Canadiens players stood in front of a semicircle of microphones and recorders and reiterated versions of the same mantra.
The opportunity to play in an elimination game is exciting — even if it is the Canadiens who face the uncomfortable reality that their season is one loss away from ending.
The Canadiens trail the New York Rangers 3-2 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final with Game 6 Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. After taking a 2-1 series lead following last Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Rangers, Montreal has dropped the last two games.
“You shouldn’t worry about the outcome,” Julien said Friday. “The outcome will come from playing the right way.”
There has been a general lack of production from Shea Weber, Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk over the course of the series. Weber has one goal and two assists for three points, Galchenyuk has two assists and Pacioretty has one helper.
The trio is generating offensive chances — Weber has eight shot attempts in the two losses in Games 4 and 5, Pacioretty has seven shots on goal and an additional 16 attempts, and Galchenyuk has three shots on goal and four other attempted shots. They’re just not finishing.
“It’s not from having a lack of opportunities,” Julien said about Pacioretty. “At some point in the playoffs you realize some of your top guns are going to be checked a little closer. We talked about (Edmonton Oilers centre Connor) McDavid — who’s a young player —and (Vladimir) Tarasenko in St. Louis. Max is not the only guy who hasn’t scored yet. If he’s getting chances it means he’s doing something well.
“Probably an easy target (for criticism) right now but certainly as you all know he’s supported by his teammates and coaching staff, so that’s not an issue.”
Julien reiterated those sentiments in talking about Galchenyuk.
“I think in Alex’s case he is one of those guys you do not see much and then he takes one shot that (turns) things around. So there’s no doubt he’s capable of more and hopefully that will come up.”
The Canadiens have 10 goals in the first five games. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is a big reason for that.
Entering Saturday’s game, Lundqvist has a .944 save percentage and 1.82 goals-against average. Montreal’s Carey Price has a .936 save percentage and 1.82 GAA, but the New York goalie has faced 21 more shots (178-157) than his Canadiens counterpart.
“He’s a motivated guy regardless,” defenceman Marc Staal said of Lundqvist. “He wants to win.
“His motivation is to try and win a playoff series and win each game. I don’t think it really matters who he’s playing against.”