Habs aren't paying attention to detail

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:35 PM ET


 MONTREAL -- The task before them now is too big to contemplate as a whole.

 The Canadiens have to win four straight games against the Lightning starting tonight, a team they haven't been able to beat in their first three tries in their Eastern Conference semi-final.

 They couldn't beat the Bolts, not even with the Canadiens playing about the best they can play in Game 3, a game in which they blew a 3-2 lead with 16.5 seconds left in regulation time and lost in overtime.

 All the Canadiens can do is break it into pieces, the little jobs, the details, maybe even put their faith in a higher power to become the third team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 deficit.

 "They're getting the bounces right now," said Canadiens captain Saku Koivu yesterday as most of the Habs took a day off from the ice.

 That is a trite way of looking at things.

 It is also not true and doesn't give the Lightning the credit it deserves.

 The Bolts are making their own luck.

 Was it lucky Canadiens forward Niklas Sundstrom couldn't get the puck out of his zone in the dying seconds of Game 3?

 Was it lucky Bolts centre Vincent Lecavalier made a wonderfully creative play to tie it?

 Was it lucky Tampa forward Fredrik Modin took away the boards -- as he has been drilled to do for years -- causing a turnover in overtime and leading to Brad Richards' winner?

 Luck is an unfair way to explain it.

 "Everybody wants to write about the end result, but as a team and a coaching staff, we stress those little things. You now what they are called? Details," said Lightning coach John Tortorella.

 "You don't have that, you may win some games, but you are not going to be successful at crunch time. Nobody even talked or wrote about (Modin). He takes the wall away and after the turnover has the presence of mind to kick the puck (to Richards). Those are the things as coaches you see as the foundation of being successful."

 The Canadiens are in this hole because the Lightning has done a better job of taking care of the details.

 "Look at the tying goal. It's a matter of chipping the puck out," said Canadiens coach Claude Julien. "We're going to say 'you're talking about Sundstrom.' Yes, we are talking about Sundstrom. I'm not pointing the finger at him and blaming him for the loss, but those are pucks that are on his stick and you want the pucks to get out and it didn't get out. The puck turns over and it winds up in our net.

 "Our players have grown a lot this year in a lot of areas. Even (Tuesday) night if you look at the game, a lot of the things we accomplished, there are so many positive things to take out of the game," said Julien.

 "Just those little mistakes again made the difference in the game. Do you knock your team down for putting out the kind of effort it did (Tuesday)? Or do you just try to minimize and get better at the little things that cost us?"

 Which brings us to goaltending.

 Tampa goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin has been better than Montreal's Jose Theodore, something that's going to have to change if the Habs are to live for another day.

 "No, I can't stand here and say Jose's outstanding and stood on his head," admitted Julien. "He's been good, but we also know that when Jose is on his game, there's not much that goes by him. But it's got nothing to do with pointing fingers. It's about asking Jose and the rest of the team to give the most that they can in order for us to win hockey games.

 "If there's one thing our team has shown throughout this season is when it's gone through some tough situations, it hasn't given up. It's worked even harder. It showed determination, resiliency, everything you need in order to succeed," added Julien

 Except one thing.

 At this time of year, you do need to sweat the small stuff.


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