Souray upset with effort

LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

If you dug out your Canadiens sweater last night, drove from Habs' country to pay scalpers and planned to jeer the Maple Leafs with Na Na, Hey Hey, then Sheldon Souray feels your pain.

Montreal's all-star alternate captain fired a broadside at his teammates, whom he fears have developed a lethargy where the Leafs are concerned, one that could kill their playoff prospects.

In a 4-1 result reminiscent of the '70s, when the downtrodden Leafs would save their best for their ancient rivals, they made the Air Canada Centre a minefield for the visitors. Souray was stunned that a rested Montreal squad, coming off two huge pre-break wins over Buffalo and Atlanta, would get out-hustled by one missing three front-line forwards and has yet to lose to Montreal in five regulation tries.

"You shouldn't have to add one piece of fuel to the fire when we play Toronto," Souray complained. "It's not like we're going into a place with 9,000 people; we're coming into a full building with a lot of Montreal fans, who deserve a good game. It's a shame because we're not holding our end up."

Souray and many of his mates saw the warning signs early this month, a 4-9 slump just before the deceiving pre-break victories.

"A few days ago, I would've said we were tired, but after a week (off) like that ... it was a matter of not being prepared," coach Guy Carbonneau said.

Souray's fearsome shot was neutralized, with 16 Montreal attempts in all blocked by the Leafs. While Montreal has had an edge in games against the Leafs that have gone to overtime and shootouts the past two years, it's clear the Leafs take this 750-game feud a lot more seriously. Thus, the gap between the clubs is now seven points where Montreal once seemed unassailable.

"Every time we play them, they get emotionally ready, they pick their game up another gear or two and we don't match it," Souray said. "They're missing three good guys, but don't use any excuses. They get the puck deep, we're getting hit, getting pressured, forced into bad plays and getting abused back there."

So who to call in such troubled times? All-star goalie invitee Cristobal Huet was not the answer last night, but how about Ken Dryden? The thinking man's goalie is having his No. 29 raised to the roof tomorrow night prior to a game against Ottawa and such pomp and ceremony usually inspires the best in the Habs.

Retiring numbers is one area the Habs definitely have the Upper Canadians beat, befitting a team with 24 Stanley Cups.

For the past few years it's been bannerama in the Bell Centre rafters with an eye to the club's centennial on Dec. 4, 2009.

HANGING THEM HIGH

Dryden will be the 12th Hab to get the ultimate tribute. Serge Savard (18) went up earlier this year and Larry Robinson (19), Bob Gainey (23) and Patrick Roy (33) will likely get their due in the next two years. Jacques Plante (1), Doug Harvey (2), Jean Beliveau (4), Howie Morenz (7), Rocket Richard (9), Guy Lafleur (10), Henri Richard (16), Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer (12) have been recognized in sequence with their final year as Canadiens.

It was Dryden who continued the Leafs' controversial policy of honouring numbers, which has seen former captains and franchise leading scorers Darryl Sittler and Dave Keon have the likes of Jonas Hoglund and Miro Ihnacak piggyback on their legacy.

In fairness, it goes back to Cliff Fletcher who was left with little choice but to continue Conn Smythe's wish that only players whose careers ended in catastrophic circumstances, such as Bill Barilko and Ace Bailey, would be retired.

Elder statesmen such as Ted Kennedy refused the gesture of a retired sweater, while a similar plan to placate Keon failed.

The NHL wouldn't let individual Leafs wear special number patches and the whole mess was passed from Dryden to the current administration.

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REPORT CARD

B Forwards: Found themselves in the face of Cristobal Huet for much of the night, a habit which obviously perturbed the Montreal goalie.

B+ Defence: Pavel Kubina's scoring heroics combined with Hal Gill's ornery attitude made it a long night for many of the Montreal forwards.

A Goaltending: The only goal to beat Andrew Raycroft bounced in off Kubina's torso, so how could you blame him for that?


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