Home sweet home?
The Canadiens are hoping that’s the case as they welcome the Ottawa Senators to the Bell Centre Wednesday (7 p.m., TSN, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
The Canadiens have a more-than-respectable 8-3-2 record on home ice, but captain Brian Gionta knows he and his teammates can improve on that mark.
“We have such passionate fans and they’re always there for us and it’s nice to reward them with some wins at home,” said Gionta, who smiled at the suggestion that the key to success might be a close-checking game like the ones that have allowed Montreal to fashion an impressive 9-2-2 record on the road.
It was anything but close-checking the last time the Canadiens played at home on March 2. They engaged the Pittsburgh Penguins in a game that was entertaining for the fans but frustrating for the players, who finished on the short end of a 7-6 count in overtime.
That game spotlighted a major flaw in the Canadiens’ game this season. The Penguins rallied from a 2-1 deficit to take a 4-2 lead with three second-period goals.
“There are plenty of times when we’ve come up big in the third period and we’ve had solid starts,” Gionta said. “The second period seems to stand in the way of a solid 60-minute game. We get caught in a lull and we have to work through that as a team. There are some things we have to correct.”
That’s not to say the Canadiens haven’t done some good things in the second period. They rank fourth in the NHL with 30 second-period goals, but have also allowed 30. By contrast, they have outscored the opposition 24-10 in the first period and 27-10 in the third.
When the Canadiens got off to a strong start, people pointed to the fact they played eight of their first 11 games at home. The schedule has evened out after 26 games and the Canadiens are still winning. In fact, they have a better record on the road after going 4-1 on their longest road trip of the season.
“The guys are playing hard and they deserve respect and they deserve credit,” coach Michel Therrien said.
Home sweet home?