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Bad habits seen

Gill says Canadiens need to start stronger

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / April 20, 2011

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MONTREAL — The Canadiens had a day off yesterday to regroup and will get back to work this morning, with their chief focus a much better start in Game 4 against the Bruins tomorrow night.

Despite the intensity in the Bell Centre Monday night, Montreal came out flat, fell behind by three goals, and never really recovered. Likewise, the Bruins were off their game in the first two meetings at TD Garden. So through three games of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal, the home team has lost every time.

Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill said it may have been a case of his team keeping its emotions too much in check.

“It’s a balance of being intense but being in control,’’ he said. “Sometimes you control it too much. I think we could’ve been a little more intense and used that. You try to find that balance, and maybe we were on the wrong side of that balance.’’

After the Bruins had gone up, 3-0, by the 2:02 mark of the second period, the Habs battled back to get within one at 4:08 of the third, only to fall short with Boston sealing it on an empty-netter.

“That’s playoff hockey,’’ said Gill. “We’re in a battle here and they played well. We slipped a little bit and that’s what happens.

“We have to try to keep that game close early and check them tighter. We carried the momentum at the end of the game but it wasn’t enough.

“You have to stay in the battle and that’s what we didn’t do well enough to win. We have to go out and work our butts off to get a win. We’re going to look at tape, we’re going to talk to each other, and we’re going to figure out what we do well and hopefully go out and do it.’’

In the first two games, Gill and defense partner P.K. Subban did a masterful job of shutting down the Bruins’ top line of David Krejci, Nathan Horton, and Milan Lucic. In Game 3, Krejci and Horton scored the first two goals.

“They played a smarter game,’’ said Gill, referring to the Bruins overall. “But we didn’t play our game. If they’re playing smart and we’re playing smart, it makes for a pretty good game.

“I think we took the momentum back [in the third period] but it doesn’t matter if you don’t score some goals. The bottom line is we need to find a way to get wins and that means showing up for 60.’’

Goaltender Carey Price was aggravated after the game, saying that guys were horsing around after the morning skate and lacked focus. Gill believes the team will get back into the right mode.

“You have to learn from things,’’ he said. “You have to say, ‘Hey, it wasn’t our night.’ But we have to really focus on our start, and that is obvious. We look at the next game and focus on the first five minutes.

“We played with a lot of passion in the first two games and we got home and maybe we dropped off a little bit. That’s a good team, and if you don’t play as well as you can and play as sharp as you can, they’ll make you pay.

“It’s tough when you fall into a hole like that. We got back to our game but we still didn’t do things the way we should be doing them and that’s discouraging.

“But it’s ups and downs and you ride the wave and hopefully stay on top. If we play better, I like our chances. If we come out and have a better start, we’re looking at a different outcome, I think.

“It’s the details we have to be better at.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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