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Canadiens need another miracle on ice

Wherever the mythical wall is, the Canadiens' backs have been against it so frequently in these playoffs that there is a red, white and blue "CH" imprinted on the bricks.

Wherever the mythical wall is, the Canadiens' backs have been against it so frequently in these playoffs that there is a red, white and blue "CH" imprinted on the bricks.

"It's a tough situation, but we are still here," said Montreal defenseman Jaroslav Spacek. "They have to beat us four times. They did three times. I think we beat ourselves [in Game 4 on Saturday] a little bit, and that's the situation where we are right now."

By now, it has been well-documented that Montreal rallied from the same 3-1 series deficit they face against the Flyers when they stunned top-seeded Washington in the first round. They also needed to erase a 3-2 series hole to Pittsburgh in the last round. During these playoffs, Montreal is 5-0 in elimination contests and has won two Game 7s on the road. No team has ever won three.

"We love the challenge," said Scott Gomez. "We've loved it all year. And here we go. I don't know what else to say, but we'll be ready."

The hole they've dug this time is deeper than what they faced in those first two rounds. Their offense, for instance, has been non-existent in the losses. Their goal-tender has had his adventures with soft goals. And the Flyers have been more physical and have two sets of defensive pairings that the Capitals and Penguins did not.

"I think we know what's at stake," coach Jacques Martin said. "Players don't need much. I mean, we've been there before. We know how we have to compete, and just be prepared and enjoy the moment."

The Flyers, who performed their own Lazarus-on-ice skates miracle against Boston last round, know firsthand how quickly a team can go from being in control to making summer vacation plans.

"We all know that the last one, the fourth one is the toughest one to win," said Simon Gagne. "We're a perfect example. We did come back from a 3-0 lead, and we all know that's the toughest one to win. You could ask Boston, they'll tell you that for sure."

Scoring the first goal has been more important in this series than usual. The team that hits the scoreboard first not only has won each of the four games, but they've gone on to outscore the opposition, 17-1. Also, the last three times these teams met during the regular season the team that opened the scoring won the game. What gives?

"I wish I could give you answers," said Canadiens defenseman Roman Hamrlik. "We talked about it in the dressing room, you know. One game, the third game, we played a hell of a game. I think it was our [best] game so far in all three series. And [Saturday], we showed up and we were not ready."

To refresh, the Habs jumped out early and won Game 3, 5-1. In Saturday's Game 4, they never recovered when Claude Giroux took advantage of Josh Gorges' skate malfunction for the game's first goal as the Flyers won, 3-0.

"First of all, there hasn't been a lot of power plays in this series," Martin said. "And second of all, at this time of the year in the playoffs, at this stage, both teams check well, and I think it's been that kind of games."

Actually, there have been 32 power plays through the first four games of this series. In Montreal's first four against Washington, there were 35. Against Pittsburgh, there were just 26.

Gomez recalled his rookie year when his Devils started the journey back from a 3-1 series deficit by beating the Flyers in a Game 5 on the same ice he and his mates will take tonight. The legacy of that series is Scott Stevens blasting Eric Lindros two games later. The Devils went on to beat the Dallas Stars for the 2000 Stanley Cup and Stevens was the playoff MVP.

"Here we are again," he said. "It seems [like] 10 years ago I was in the same situation. But I mean, it's different. It's a different league. It's a different time.

"Experience helps, but at the same time, we have to go out there and put the effort out. It's not going to be handed to us."

Hab bits

Jacques Martin said rookie center Thomas Pyatt, one of the stars of the Canadiens' win in Game 3, will be a game-time decision. Pyatt has an upper-body injury and did not play in the third period on Saturday . . . Montreal's top three scorers during the regular season - Tomas Plekanec (nothing), Scott Gomez (one assist) and Michael Cammalleri (one goal) - have combined for two points in this series . . . Jaroslav Spacek celebrated his Czech Republic's victory over Russia in the World Championships after winning a bottle of wine from injured teammate Andrei Markov.