RALEIGH, N.C. -- Time heals wounds - even one as ugly as a blown three-goal lead in a crucial Stanley Cup playoff game.
It has been several days since the Montreal Canadiens allowed the Carolina Hurricanes to score three third-period goals in less than 17 minutes, then saw a sure-win dissolve in a 4-3 overtime loss that tied the Eastern Conference semifinal series 2-2.
Instead of stewing about the Thursday night debacle in the Molson Centre, the Canadiens talked about the mistakes they made, then moved on, vowing to be ready to play a solid 60 minutes in Game 5 on Sunday afternoon in Carolina.
"It's foolish not to learn from something like that," defenseman Sheldon Souray said Saturday after practice. "It wasn't so much them beating us, it was us beating ourselves. We've addressed that and we've turned the page.
"We haven't done anything the easy way this year, that's for sure," Souray added. "That's the way it goes. It has made us a lot tougher and it has tested our character, but we've responded well with our backs against the wall. That last game was just another test of our character."
Add Game 5 to the list.
It appears the Canadiens will have to play without Yanic Perreault. The top faceoff man in the NHL during the regular season remained in Montreal on Saturday with a stomach virus.
Perreault, who has seven points in 10 playoff games, is doubtful for Sunday's game.
"We're preparing ourselves like he's not going to be here," coach Michel Therrien said.
If Perreault is unable to go, he'll likely be replaced in the lineup by veteran Shaun Van Allen.
The Canadiens have been counted out numerous times this season, but rallied to make the playoffs as the eighth seed in the East, then upset top-seeded Boston in the opening round. It will be interesting to see how Montreal will respond after all the criticism it endured following the Game 4 loss.
"People are always thinking we're not going to survive, but we always find a way to come back, and to get stronger out of it, to be tighter as a family," Therrien said. "We had a pretty good meeting with a few guys and I'm very confident about the next two games. We've got so much character and so many leaders in that dressing room. That was just one game. We'll get through it."
That remains to be seen on the ice Sunday at the Entertainment and Sports Arena, where Montreal won Game 2.
"These two days have been great for us," Montreal captain Saku Koivu said. "We were frustrated and now we've had some time to forget that. But there are no guarantees. You try to play smarter and better defensively."
Carolina's players also said they have to keep their emotions in check - and forget about the past.
"We can take a lot of things from that third period and bring it into the game Sunday, but we would be foolish to think that it was still in their heads," Erik Cole said. "As quickly as we had to cut off the overtime loss that we had (in Game 3) they're cutting that one out of their heads."
While the series is even, Montreal must still address its major weakness - defense. In the second and third periods of the last three games, the Canadiens have been outshot by a combined 93-31.
"We've got to play tighter on defense, we're getting beat along the walls," Therrien said. "We're going to make a little adjustment on that."
Consistency is another area of concern.
"We've put together 20 great minutes, we've put together 40 great minutes, but we've yet to put together 60 great minutes," Souray said. "We know that's something that has to be addressed. As we've seen in the last two games, there's no quit in that team."
Carolina coach Paul Maurice said he would be surprised if Montreal didn't play its best game to date in the series.
"Tough losses are sometimes easier to cut off than those losses that you were almost there," Maurice said. "It's the only option you have. You want to get rid of it. As a team you have your meeting, you beat it to death in the middle of the room, and then you completely cut it off."
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