Canadiens coach Julien defends Pacioretty, mild reaction to Nash hit on Price

Julien defends goal-less Pacioretty

BROSSARD, Que. — Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien talked about keeping things in perspective heading into Game 5 of their playoff series with the New York Rangers.

That regular season scoring leader Max Pacioretty has yet to score in the first four games does not mean he is an underachiever, he said. And the team’s failure to start a war when goalie Carey Price was run over by Rick Nash does not mean the Canadiens are timid or don’t care.

“I’d like to put the context in the right perspective,” was how Julien put it on Wednesday, a day after a 2-1 defeat in New York evened the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final at 2-2.

The teams face off again Thursday night at the Bell Centre.

Price was not injured when he was bowled over as Nash took the puck hard to the net in the first period, but it was immediately compared by some to an incident in the opening game of the 2014 conference final when New York’s Chris Kreider took the all-star goalie out of the series in a skates-first crash.

The Canadiens on the ice at the time wisely opted not to jump on Nash, who took a goalie interference penalty.

“I know history makes it a little sensitive when you see that happen,” said Julien. “There’s a difference between running a goalie and going hard to the net.

“It’s part of the game. You have to read the situation. If it was intentional, I think you’d see a different reaction.”

Centre Steve Ott, who is not shy about getting physical when it is called for, said it wasn’t the time to risk nullifying a power play.

“Obviously, we’re here to protect Carey,” he said. “We’re here to protect each other as well. But you have to be smart in tough situations.”

Canadiens fans are sensitive to the toughness issue because for most of the last decade the team has been smaller than average and not very physical, but that was addressed with the arrival of defencemen Shea Weber and Jordie Benn and size was added up front in the form of Ott and Dwight King, not to mention gritty middleweight Andrew Shaw.

The Canadiens-Rangers matchup, featuring two teams known more for speed than muscle, has been surprisingly physical so far, but not so much to risk taking a penalty on a play like the Nash hit, even if the Rangers are 0-for-12 on the power play.

“You’ve got to do it verbally in the playoffs,” said defenceman Nathan Beaulieu. “I know everyone wants us to go and fight and stuff, but in the playoffs that’s how you turn it into a bad penalty that can cost you a series.

“You can’t retaliate. Nash isn’t a dirty player. He was going hard to the net. We have to take it upon ourselves not to let him drive to the net. That’s all I can say.”

Pacioretty, a 35-goal scorer in the regular season, has one assist in four playoff games, although he leads the team with 19 shots. The veteran left-winger has a history of slow starts in the playoffs. Each time, it seems, his character is called into question.

He wasn’t made available to the media on Wednesday, but Julien leapt to his captain’s defence.

“He’s a good player and whether you guys don’t think he’s done enough, for me internally, I think he’s done a lot and he’s got an opportunity to be better,” said Julien. “My job is to take the pressure off him while he’s getting pressure from elsewhere.

“That’s how I handle things.”

Pacioretty is also a streaky scorer, going stretches without a goal and then potting them in bunches.

“There’s no panic in Max’s game,” said Beaulieu. “He’s still confident.

“He’s still playing good hockey. Watch, one will go in and you’ll see Max take off to another level.”

The same can be said for some of New York’s top guns. First-line players Kreider and Derek Stepan have yet to score. Each team has scored only eight goals in the four games.

Note: Montreal defenceman Alexei Emelin is moving closer to a return after missing four with an undisclosed injury. He skated with the subs on Wednesday but still needs clearance from team doctors to play in a game, which could come as early as Thursday.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Professional basketball league eyes Kelowna for possible expansion

The CEBL was the first Canadian professional sports league to successfully complete its 2020 season in a bubble format

30 new COVID-19 cases reported in Central Okanagan health region in August

The 30 new cases reported in August brings the total number in region to 239

Allegedly stolen puppy reunited with owners in Kelowna

The puppy was reportedly turned into the RCMP

Kelowna resident seeks help locating missing ferret

Dexter the Ferret is smaller than average and likes to chase squirrels

KF Aerospace Centre unveils building plans for museum at YLW

The museum and conference centre is intended to be built on Lapointe Drive beside the Kelowna International Airport

Liberals vow wage-subsidy extension to 2021, revamp of EI system in throne speech

Canadian labour market was hammered by pandemic, when lockdowns in the spring led to a loss of 3 million jobs

Horgan blasts B.C. Greens for refusing youth overdose detention

Lack of support key to B.C. election call, NDP leader says

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Rossland resident Aerin Bowers completes 19-km swim along Christina Lake

Bowers said her dad inspired her to complete the epic adventure

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Grand jury indicts police officer in Breonna Taylor death

Officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment

Grizzly bear spotted in North Okanagan

Two residents warn of sightings in the area

Most Read