Habs hold out plenty of hope

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:48 PM ET


 There's a certain sense of deja vu in all this.

 And the Montreal Canadiens are hoping that sense turns into reality. They keep referring to the previous series against the Boston Bruins, which started in similar fashion. The Canadiens looked awful in the first game, improved dramatically in the second but made a crucial error and lost.

 WEAK GOAL

 In Boston, goalie Jose Theodore allowed a weak overtime goal.

 In Tampa, defenceman Sheldon Souray coughed up the puck to allow Vincent Lecavalier to score with only three seconds left in a period that Montreal had dominated.

 Can the Canadiens now go back home and start another comeback?

 "You need four wins to win a series," forward Steve Begin said. "We are down 2-0. That's not the end of the world."

 Souray, who stood in the Montreal room and answered questions until they stopped coming, made no excuses for his error and said, "it's going to be better next game."

 There is no reason to think the Canadiens are dead.

 In Game 2, they started to show they are making the necessary adjustments to slow the Tampa juggernaut. Now they have to make a few more.

 Coach Claude Julien juggled his lines on occasion to keep the Lightning off balance and he moved away from his initial matchup of best against best. Instead, as much as possible, he put a checking line out against Lecavalier, Ruslan Fedotenko and Martin St. Louis.

 At times, he moved Richard Zednik off the top line to a line with Mike Ribeiro and Michael Ryder in the hopes of getting the latter two to start to make some sort of impact.

 On Sunday, Julien scratched the nominal third member of the line, Pierre Dagenais, and filled the roster spot with Darren Langdon.

 Why not?

 Even though Ryder is a Calder Trophy candidate, Langdon has one goal in the post-season and that's one more than Ryder.

 Ribeiro got two goals in Game 4 against Boston but has done little else before or since, except to be a runaway winner of the Luc Robitaille Award for being the last player back on the greatest number of occasions.

 But there is one huge factor in Montreal's favour.

 This is a team that never quits.

 In hockey, all teams like to make that claim but the Canadiens are a team that generally earns it.

 They'll have the rabid Montreal crowd in their corner and that might work against the Lightning more than it works against other teams.

 Two of the Lightning's key players, St. Louis and Lecavalier, are of Quebecois heritage and it's never easy for francophones to return to that Montreal spotlight where friends and family descend like locusts.

 "Any time during the season we play there it's very special," Lecavalier said. "The people up there, they've really been supporting me. A couple of times during the season I scored a goal and some people cheered. Obviously it might be a little bit different this time because we're in the playoffs."

 St. Louis was a little more direct.

 "This is our time of the year," St. Louis said. "Family comes this summer. You don't say the family comes second many times but this is one of the times they do. This is all about the team."

 The pressure on those two will be tremendous, but the Lightning is by no means a two-man team. There's a strong support staff and, in Nikolai Khabibulin, a great goaltender.

 But the Canadiens know that in any multi-step approach to beating the Lightning, step No. 1 is to negate Lecavalier and St. Louis. They feel they can do it and they feel they can do to the Lightning what they did to the Bruins.

 They started heading in the right direction on Sunday, but they'll need to progress a lot further down that road tonight.


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